Are you struggling to talk to your teenager? Teenage years are a challenge as your child is going through huge emotional and physical changes. Many parents find their teen feels more distant from them or stops communicating altogether.
So how can you keep lines of communication open with your teenager?
1: Pick your battles
All children need boundaries. It helps them feel safe and secure. Teenagers naturally test these boundaries and push against them. If they feel everything is a rule, a problem, or they’re always being told off, they rebel against it.
Instead try picking your battles. Stay firm and consistent about the important things. Talk to your teenager about why that rule is in place rather than saying, “because I said so,” so they understand why the rule is important.
Be flexible about unimportant things and allow your teen as much choice as possible over them. It helps them feel their opinions are valued and listened to.
2: Avoid nagging when you talk to your teenager
Teens are quick to feel “got at”. They feel that all you ever do is moan at them and tell them what to do. If all you ever do is moan, they are quick to turn off and stop listening.
Try keeping moans to a minimum. Speak clearly about a worry or problem and explain the impact it has on you in as few words as possible. Pick one problem at a time when you talk to your teenager rather than piling lots of problems into one conversation.
3: Hold off on judgement when you talk to your teenager
If your child knows you’re going to react badly, they’ll avoid telling you about the mistakes they make. Instead of getting angry, try to keep calm, no matter how annoyed or frustrated you feel.
We all make mistakes and it’s easy for them to knock our self-esteem. Show your teen that you still love them and that making a mistake doesn’t make them a bad person.
4: Let them solve their problems
Teens often just want a listening ear to their problems. Praise them for being honest about issues and don’t leap into solve the problem for them.
We all handle things differently. Your child might find a different way of solving a problem to you. It’s part of the process of them becoming an adult.
5: Show empathy
We were all teenagers once. You might cringe at some of the mistakes you made in the past. Show your teenager that you understand how they feel by trying to put yourself in their shoes.
When you imagine yourself in their situation it’s easier to show empathy and give them the support they need.
6: Stay calm when you talk to your teenager
Teenagers know how to press all our buttons. It’s easy for a straightforward conversation to quickly descend into a row.
Teenagers struggle to regulate their emotions. They’re easy to upset and quickly become annoyed or angry. By staying calm you can help keep them keep control of their emotions.
If you feel your temper rising walk away for a few minutes or take a few deep calming breaths before you talk.
7: Validate them
We know when they break up with a friend that it will probably quickly blow over, but the emotions your teen feels are powerful and valid.
Instead of discussing, or minimising them, talk to your teenager about how they feel and help them name the emotion they’re experiencing.
8: Work to their schedule
If you needed to talk with a colleague, you wouldn’t demand they stop everything and speak with you immediately. You’d ask when was convenient and book at time that works for both of you.
Showing your teen this same courtesy demonstrates that you see them as an adult rather than a child and respect their schedule too.
9: Give them a boost
Being told you’re good at something gives everyone a boost of self-esteem. Your teen is never too old to hear that they’ve done something well or that you admire something about them.
When you talk to your teenager, make the praise relevant and don’t overdo it so it doesn’t lose the impact.
10: Take the pressure off talking
Teens quickly turn off if all they hear are long lectures from you. There are times when there’s a problem to discuss, but most of the time have fun communicating with your child.
Be curious about them, respect their opinions, and enjoy spending time together, even if it’s just for a few minutes in the day.
- A tricky part of parenting a teenager is when they start having relationships. Find out how to support your teen as they start dating and ways to help them get through relationship breakups.
- Our popular Support Talk video series, The Ask, is full of helpful ways to improve how the whole family talks with each other.