In the spirit of Nathalie’s last post about communication, I’ve decided for this week’s post to share a few insights related to communicating with your teenager.
Communicating effectively is an important skill to have in the workplace, in social situations and within a family. It takes time to develop this skill and comes only with practice. Communicating effectively and modelling good communication skills for your teen can be a challenge, but it is a normal and important step in their development and also in our own development as parents. Here are four things that I try to keep in mind when communicating with my teenager.
1 – Look for windows of opportunity and use them as effectively you can:
It goes without saying that we are all busy and that includes our teens as well. They have a lot to do and a lot on their minds and lets face it, they are not always going to be open or available to listen to what you have to say. Avoid feeling frustrated because your message is not being heard. Instead, wait for those opportune moments when your teenager is more likely to listen. In the car or at the dinner table or when they are about to go to bed may be better times. These small windows of opportunity to not just talk to your teen but actually communicate with them open and close just as quickly, so whatever the message you are trying to send, make it simple and worthwhile. Prioritize communicating about the important issues, like how their relationships with their friends are going, what their plans are for an upcoming project and don’t forget to tell them how much you love them.
2- Don’t let it become a battle
The most successful conversations are the ones where your teenager comes to his/her own conclusions about a situation or topic. The more you insist on being right or being heard, the less likely your message will come across and even less likely it will be applied in any meaningful way. Rebellion and the development of one’s identity is a big part of the teenage experience and in many cases, that means opposing the established boundaries. If you can find a way to infiltrate their thoughts indirectly or passively and plant a seed, than you’ve done the job. Whatever you do, try not to get pulled into an argument and do not mirror his or her anxiety or anger. They are the child and you the adult. It is your job to remain calm or walk away when communication lines are not working well.
3- Have some perspective
Before discussing anything difficult with your teen, take a step back and analyze the current situation that your teen is in.Yes, teenagers may not always pick up after themselves and yes, they make unreasonable demands and loose their temper at times. But what about the bigger picture? Are they doing well in school? Do they have supportive friends? If that’s the case, than the fact that their room is a mess or that they didn’t call you when they got home from school may not be as terrible after all. Also keep in mind that it’s fine and good to teach your teenager about hygiene and tidiness but not at the expense of your relationship with them. So take a step back and remember what’s really important in the grand scheme of things.
4- Learn from your mistakes as well your successes
Give yourself a break and take notice of those times when you did manage to get through to your teen. Was it when you were nagging? Not likely. The best moments of communication happen when both parties are willing to listen and approach a topic of conversation in a calm manner. Focussing on the other person’s need to be heard tends to work much better than simply forcing your point onto the other person.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject of communication and lord knows I am learning by trial and error as I go along. Thankfully, Nathalie has been great about sharing her thoughts and her wisdom regarding her experiences with bringing up her teenage boys. In addition, my teenage daughter has also been a great teacher. She let’s me know right away when my communication skills are less then what they should be and thankfully she is a forgiving teacher who gives me second chances to redeem myself.