Communicating With Your Teen

Many parents find that relationships become strained when their children enter adolescence; parents often feel that their children “just won’t listen.” What’s interesting about this situation is that teens often voice the exact same complaint about their parents! Rather than pointing the finger, however, it may be more constructive to focus on what can be done to improve communication. By taking the lead and setting an example of good listening, you can greatly improve the chances that your children will listen to and consider what you have to say to them as well.

  • First, show by your actions that you are ready to listen. Put aside any chores and turn off the TV.
  • Encourage your children to talk to you about anything that’s on their minds; if you are uncomfortable with certain topics (e.g., drug abuse or sexuality), get support and information from others to make it easier.
  • Allow your children to express their ideas and views without criticizing or correcting them. You may express your own opinions if asked, but keep in mind that you can love and respect each other even if you disagree.
  • Choose your “battles” carefully. If there are some rules you feel strongly about (e.g., no drinking), try to be flexible in other areas that may be less crucial (e.g., choice of music or clothing).
  • Teens are often anxious about a number of things, including their physical attractiveness, dating relationships, and acceptance by peers. Treat these concerns respectfully. It may help simply to convey that you understand how they’re feeling, rather than trying to convince them that they shouldn’t worry about fitting in or looking good.
  • Encourage your children to participate in fulfilling activities such as hobbies, sports, music, or volunteer work, rather than emphasizing what they “shouldn’t” do (e.g., hanging out with the “wrong crowd”).
  • Look for opportunities to praise and reward your children when they do things well.
  • Try to set an example of calm, appropriate communication, even if your teen is sarcastic or moody.
  • Be involved! The more time you spend together, the more opportunities you have to be a positive influence.