For parents and children, the teenage years can be some of the most challenging. This is a time when teens are developing independence from their parents, as well as a clearer sense of their personal identity. They may at times push boundaries, become argumentative, and have difficulty managing their emotions. However, they continue to need warm and close relationships with their parents. It is not uncommon for lines of communication to break down during this phase of development. Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to strengthen communication.
Tips for Maintaining Open Communication
- Listen. Pay attention to what your teen is saying and avoid becoming distracted with thinking about how to respond or how to fix a situation. Give them your undivided attention.
- Provide opportunities to talk. Rather than making it a usual practice to sit them down for a formal talk, it can be helpful to keep communication channels open all of the time. Some of the most comfortable and rich conversations happen during mealtimes, while driving, and in other everyday situations.
- Validate their feelings. Try to empathize and communicate that you understand their feelings.
- Take a break from the conversation when things get heated. It’s normal to have disagreements with teens from time to time, and it’s important to pause the conversation when this happens. It’s better to prevent a situation from escalating to the point of saying or doing things you both regret later. When you’re both calm, come back and revisit the issue.
- Ask questions occasionally to clarify and to show you are listening. Open questions are helpful in better understanding your teenager’s thoughts, opinions and ideas. They also help to open up the dialogue, and provide an opportunity for your teen to reflect on and express their thoughts.
As children become teenagers, it is normal for them to become more oriented to their peers, and communicate less with parents. However, they continue to need and desire communication with parents and know parents are interested in their lives. Keep involved with your teenager’s activities and lives, make time to strengthen your relationship connection through fun and loving times, and show them you love and care for them everyday. A nurturing, supportive relationship is key and is a foundation for open communication!