This post is by: Sue Blaney is a communication expert, author and publisher who specializes in supporting parents in successfully raising teens. www.PleaseStoptheRollercoaster.com
Communication… it sounds basic, easy even, but any parent of a teenager knows there is more to it than meets the eye. Good communication is the basis of any relationship, and good communication is the means by which you’ll find a solution when the going gets rough with your teenager.
So, as the parent of a teenager, why is good communication so difficult to achieve at times? And what can you do to improve the communication with your teen? Let’s look at what gets in your way, and then I’ll provide three helpful strategies.
The three most common communication mistakes parents make are:
- Parents fail to change your communication tactics to reflect your teen’s growth and developing maturity. As your teenager is becoming more independent and more responsible, parents need to develop tactics that reflect these changes… not try to manage and control your kids’ lives.
- Problem-solving without being asked. When you rush in to solve your teen’s problems you not only deprive him of developing these skills, you may be communicating to him subtly that you don’t believe he can solve the problem himself. Too often parents jump in with solutions without thinking… this is reflective of a communications habit that you can learn to change.
- Over-involving yourself in your child’s life with the intention of helping her avoid pain and/or mistakes. Certainly no parent likes to see your child in pain, and yet experiencing discomfort and pain helps kids develop resilience – which leads to the ability to bounce back from disappointments.
Here are three communication strategies that will help you communicate well with your teen and will noticeably improve your relationship.
- Put your teenager first. If you approach all communication with your teenager with the objective of first understanding her point, you can avoid pitfalls that often undermine good communication. Begin your interactions by listening carefully to understand your teen’s point of view; this means your attention is placed on your child and her underlying emotions, not on yourself and your point of view. This approach makes you slow down, allowing you time consider your response. When faced with a disagreement, anger over misbehavior, or when worried sick about a teenager who is not home at the designated time, applying this strategy works wonders. And it saves embarrassment over your possible over-reaction.
- Tune into feelings. When you intentionally tune into your teen’s feelings you listen more closely to words, tone of voice and the unstated, underlying emotions that your teen is feeling. This kind of heightened sensitivity will have a positive impact on your ability to connect with, understand, and communicate with your teenager. Parents can enhance this kind of communication by responding with neutral, open-ended and empathetic responses such as “Tell me more,” “I see what you mean.”
- Make a deposit. The “emotional bank account” is the amount of trust that has been built up between two people. You “make deposits” into your teenager’s emotional bank account by sharing pleasant time together and by expressing thoughtfulness, kindness, courtesy, honesty and sensitivity to his feelings. You “make withdrawals” from his account by overreacting, treating him with disrespect, ignoring him, betraying his trust. As you face difficulties with your teen, your ability to weather storms together will be directly impacted by the amount of value that has been built up in the emotional bank account. You can’t make withdrawals from an empty account without negatively impacting your relationship.
Consider these three simple strategies as you interact with your teenager in the coming weeks and months, and try to put them into action as often as you can. Then you’ll see your relationship is smoother, your teen seems happier with you, and you’ll feel like the effective, loving parent you mean to be.
Begin the new year with new strategies to improve communication with your teen, available in my award-winning 3-hour audio book You’re Empowered! Parenting Teens with Conviction, Communication and Love. Click to access a free excerpt and more info about this helpful program available on CD and as an MP3 download; 28 page workbook accompanies the audio program.