Communicating with teens is a tricky affair which requires a great deal of mutual understanding between teens and their parents. According to Debbie Pincus, a relationship coach and creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program, teens and their parents are wired differently which makes communication a real challenge.
Due to the giant difference in their respective thought processes, parents should demonstrate empathy while communicating with their teens. However, in reality, many parents tend to push their kids, forcing them into a “zone” where they either erupt or completely tune them out. Unless parents follow a compassionate approach to talk to their teenagers, the communication gap widens, giving rise to mutual distrust and loss of respect.
So, here are a few tips for parents to consider while talking to their kids:
Understand and Empathize
Many of the so-called “helicopter parents” tend to push their kids into behaving in certain ways without even realizing the consequences of their actions. In all probability, such actions can be counter-productive.
As parents, you should always remember to walk in your child’s shoes before expecting them to share your concerns. Once you speak to them as their friends would, they will open up and listen to your point of view.
In fact, sometimes the best thing you can do is let them speak. Don’t feel you need to solve every problem they have. Sometimes being a sounding board is the all they want from you so you should go with that.
Everything from your approach, your tone and your choice words can go a long way in setting up the foundation for successful discussions.
The Melbourne Child Psychology Services share a variety of research-driven techniques for parents to develop empathetic conversations with their male and female children.
Don’t Make it About Yourself
As a parent, it’s hard learning the ways to effectively connect with your teen. But, believe it or not, it’s even harder being a teen. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, the human brain develops very rapidly during adolescence, which explains their sudden bouts of temper, sadness and frustration.
The study also found that the surge in hormones affect both their body and their mind, making teens behave the way they do, leaving them emotionally vulnerable.
A 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association also found nearly 30% of the 1018 teens surveyed were feeling sad, overwhelmed and/or depressed.
When you try to speak to your teens, it’s critical to treat them as teens, and not as adults. Teens might respond inappropriately during your conversations. However, parents should learn how to take the emotion out of the whole exercise to avoid taking it personally. The more you understand your teens, the less you’re likely to make it about yourself.
Unlike adults, teens don’t come equipped with the ability to make better choices right away. As parents, you need to help them develop the right perspective as they encounter challenges in life. This will help them make better decisions as they grow.
Decide on Your Response Patterns
You have been through a variety of conversations with your teens. The most difficult are when your kid is aggressive, impolite, and confrontational. It’s natural for many parents to respond to such situations aggressively. However, if you want to talk to your teens constructively, you need to learn the art of self-control and not giving in to your anger.
When your teen says something that pushes your buttons, you may need to choose to step away rather than engage in a verbal duel with them. Remember, you can’t always control how your kids behave but you can certainly control your own behavior.
According to WikiHow, here are a few of things to avoid while handling conflicts with teenagers.
1. Tell them it’s not worth fighting over: Use an empathetic voice to tell your kids you understand their perspective and there are better ways to handle the situation.
2. Don’t yell at them: When your kid has done something wrong, control your impulse to yell at them. Instead, talk to them calmly about the consequences of their action and how it can affect themselves and others.
3. Give them space: Often it’s better to allow the kids to calm down before you discuss a conflict or approach a resolution with them. Let the raw emotions die down and your kid become their normal self before you start talking.
Tips for Teenagers
Most adolescent kids believe their parents are unable to understand them and it’s better to keep quiet or defend themselves. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Communication is a two-way process. Even as parents try their best to empathize with their teens, the kids themselves have a role to play as well. With a little bit of cooperation and understanding, you can establish a cordial relationship with your folks and lead a conflict-free life. Here’s how:
Understand Your Parents’ POV
At times, a small action such as patiently listening to your parents can help you understand their view points. However, teens that are increasingly skeptical of their parents’ opinions tend to avoid making any efforts appreciate their parents perspective. Sometimes, you both are on the same page, but all you need is pay a little more attention to your parents’ points and see if that’s something you can accommodate without making a huge compromise in your own point of view..
For example, if you want to stay over at your friend’s on the weekend, they are likely only worried about your safety. Instead of completely disregarding their POV, try to understand their concerns and help them become assured of your safety (i.e regular text check-ins).
Address Their Concerns Directly
Once you have developed the habit of listening to your parents, you are way ahead of most teens in terms of establishing rock-solid communication with them. However, it’s not done yet. If you understand what triggers their concerns about your choices, let them know you have thoroughly thought them through. Referring to the previous example, reassure your parents about your safety and whereabouts so they can reach out to you in case of an emergency. Such little (yet meaningful) actions can infuse mutual respect in your relationship with your folks and create a strong foundation for your interactions with them in the future.
Don’t Ridicule Their POV
While parents are not supposed to unfairly push their point of view on their teens, you should respect them for their opinions. For a healthy and positive relationship, you need to attempt listen to your parents without judging them. There’s no incentive for disrespecting parents that work hard to ensure your well being. You want to show them the respect you would want from them in return. Ridiculing their points of view won’t serve any purpose and ruin any chance of healthy interactions.
Make “I” Statements
While working on resolving a conflict with your parents, always use the “I” statements and try to avoid the “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “you have no idea about the challenges I’m facing…”, try to say, “I’m not sure if you’re aware of the challenges I’m facing”.
When you use the “you” statements, you’re putting the blame directly on your parents for any lack of understanding. With “I” statements, you can easily articulate your thoughts in a respectful manner, allowing a faster resolution of the conflict at hand.
While the tips above are a good starting point for both parents and teens, real-life situations can greatly vary, which requires parents to exercise their best judgment. However, no matter what, both parents and teens should restrain their emotions while resolving a conflict, without letting their ego derail the process.
With active listening and constructive interactions, parents can pave the way for their teens to make choices without jeopardizing everyone’s collective interests.