Consistent and open communication is important in any relationship, whether it be romantic, professional, or platonic. However, it is especially important in parenting, when your child is still developing and navigating life’s twists and turns. Even when your baby reaches adolescence, they still need some guidance – although they’ll probably try to convince you that they don’t! If they have a problem, make sure they’re comfortable coming to you to talk about it. And when that time comes, know how to communicate with your teen effectively to work through solutions and strengthen your relationship at the same time. Here are tips to do exactly that, including letting them know you’re listening and using appropriate parenting styles, such as authoritative parenting.
This first point goes beyond simply being there when your teenager needs to talk about something serious. Yes, you can do more, starting today. For example, take note of the times of day or settings where they are most likely to talk with you. Maybe it’s right after school, or whenever you’re in the car together.
During these moments, communicate with your teen rather than just listening to the radio the whole time. Ask them about low-stress topics, such as sports, friends, or any of their developing interests. Although you are still their parent, these questions demonstrate a friendliness to your relationship, helping them to feel comfortable confiding in you when hard times happen hit down the road.
Find Something Special to Do Together
Creating a feeling of exclusivity is important when showing your child that they are a valuable part of your life. Even if you see your child for a significant chunk of time each day, the chances are that it’s for routine things like getting ready in the morning or meal times. There isn’t necessarily anything unique about these moments, preventing your child from building a closeness beyond the basic caregiving relationship. As your teen starts to face more emotional and complex situations, they’ll benefit from a deeper bond with you.
To help build this bond now, make time once a week to go to your favorite cafe or hit up a nearby hiking trail for some quality one-on-one time. If you prefer to wind down instead, opt for a special movie night each weekend. There are many inspiring Christian movies to pick that you both will love to watch! Not only does this time together give your teen something to look forward to each week, but it will also show that you love spending time with them.
You’ll also navigate the best ways to communicate with your teen naturally during these moments together. Plus, they’ll realize you genuinely find learning about their life interesting.
Make it Known that You Really Do Listen
It’s very important to give your teen the respect that their difficult situation deserves so do NOT multitask while they confide in you. Instead, give them full eye contact and allow them to completely finish their thought before responding to them.
This point is also important in helping your teen understand that you value their thoughts and feelings. Adolescence is a vulnerable time in life, one in which they balance many expectations, including societal pressures about how they should look. Reassure them that their emotions, are always valid, no matter what.
Respond in a Supportive Way
Sometimes it’s not what you say but rather how you say it that is most important when you communicate with your teen. Be mindful of tone when talking with your child, because being a supportive parent can make all the difference. Harsh reactions can just make a child angry and defensive, causing them to feel as though you misunderstand them.
Also, ask constructive questions rather than loaded ones. If your teen is having problems with friends, asking “what are you doing wrong?” offers an accusatory tone and will get a defensive response. On the other hand, asking “do you have any thoughts on how to fix things?” shows that you don’t blame them and want to see them succeed.
Don’t dismiss your teenager’s ideas either. Doing so will only encourage them to find other outlets for support. Often, the antidote for negativity (or what you may perceive as such) is not positivity, but rather warmth and empathy. Responding with, “you need to be a little more positive!” or “everything happens for a reason” may be truthful but downplays how they feel right now. Instead, identify what they feel and validate it. This will condition them to understand that they can talk with you openly without feeling worse for doing so.
How to Communicate with Your Teen: Find the Balance
You may have been taught that a parent is not supposed to be a friend. While that’s often true, there are many reasons why finding the balance between this and being a parent may help the relationship with your child.
Although there are many parenting styles that you can use, you may find that as your child grows up and more complex that you need to readjust. The four main styles of parenting are:
- Authoritative parenting
What is Authoritative Parenting?
Authoritative parenting is widely regarded as the most beneficial style of parenting. That’s because it balances structure with compassion well. This type of parenting can allow you to provide your child with a safe path for learning while also being a safety net if they falter. Authoritative parents focus on setting realistic expectations for their kids so as to not suffocate them, and actively responds without placing their own emotions before their teen.
To build open communication within your teen in an authoritative style, be human with them. For example, share stories about when you were younger, such as mistakes that you made, especially when similar to your child’s present situation. It can be easy for a child to glorify their parent, seeing them as a perfect being they need to impress and always exceed expectations for.
Final Words to Effectively Communicate with Your Teen
Humanizing yourself will remind your child that, when the title of parent is stripped away, you also have challenges. Be honest about your mistakes. Doing so will likely inspire your teen to be equally candid back.