It might seem like everything you say to your teen goes in one ear and out the other, but there are ways to communicate more easily and efficiently. Stay in touch with your teen through a variety of methods, give your teen the respect of communicating privately on big issues, talk with your teen rather than lecture and be open to compromises. Pay attention to nonverbal communication when it comes to teens, and once you make a decision stick with it so that the rules are set and clear for everyone involved.
Communicate Many Ways
Everyone’s lives are busy and many different methods of getting in contact are now available when you are on the run. Take advantage of different methods of communication to stay in touch with your teen, whether you need to tell him/her something urgently or just want to say “well done!” about an achievement. Remember that you can:
- Speak to your teen face to face.
- Telephone your teen at home or on his/her mobile.
- Text important messages.
- Email teens with smartphones or who are often on the computer.
- Use social media like Facebook or Twitter to stay in touch.
- Post a note or letter, even if it’s coming to your own home.
When you need to talk to your teen about serious matters, give him or her the respect of doing so privately. Not only can it be embarrassing for teens to discuss some subjects in front of others, but having an audience can influence the way both of you speak or react. If you feel that your home has become a bit of a battleground, find a public place that can act as neutral territory for you both. Set up a date with your teen if you have to, but don’t avoid a conversation because of scheduling difficulties.
Talk Rather Than Lecture
It can be hard not to lecture to teens, particularly if they’ve acted inappropriately or fallen short of your expectations. But no one likes to be lectured at, and teens in particular tend to “turn off” if they feel they have no possibility of input. Make sure you talk with your teen by:
- Asking him or her questions.
- Listening to his or her answers.
- Explaining how you feel by using “I” phrases, and asking what your teen thinks.
- Focusing on what “we” need to do or change, not just your teen.
- Suggesting options and asking for his or her opinion.
- Letting your teen know that you are open to compromises and want to hear their thoughts.
- Maintaining eye contact, a neutral tone and an appropriate volume throughout.
Be Open to Compromises
If you tell your teen that you are open to compromises this must be the truth. It is absolutely fine to let your teen know what can not be changed, for example a weekday curfew, and what is open for discussion, maybe the weekend curfew. But just as you would need to hear why your teen thinks there is a better way to do things, so too should you be willing to explain yourself about what can and can not be done differently. If you feel that you’ve already compromised about something, explain this as well.
Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communications
Teens are notorious for being unwilling or unable to communicate directly, so watch your son or daughter’s body language for more information as you talk. Also make sure that you keep your own nonverbal communication open and positive. Be aware of:
- Facial expressions (smiles, smirks, eye rolls, grimaces, etc).
- Posture (stiff, relaxed, slumped, etc).
- Hand gestures (quick and enthusiastic, contained, fidgety, etc).
- Personal space (too much and feeling disconnected, too little and feeling invaded, etc).
- Eye contact (meeting it, furtive glances, unable to meet it, etc).
- Vocal cues (tone, pacing, stress on certain words, wavering, etc).
- Breathing cues (pace, sighs, grunts, intakes of breath, etc).
Stick With Your Decisions
Once you feel that you and your teen have communicated well and you both have a good understanding of the topic, summarise the decisions you have made. If needed, also highlight where you have compromised. Going forward stick to these decisions so that you and your teen both realise the importance of having communicated directly and spoken about what you would each like for the future. Not sticking with your decisions only teaches teens that it doesn’t matter what they or you say, and there may not be any point to communicating with you going forward.
Communicating with teenagers requires patience, respect and flexibility. Consider the many different methods by which you can contact your teen, give him or her the respect of privacy for important conversations, talk rather than lecture and pay attention to nonverbal cues that come up. Stick with the decisions you make while talking with your teen to teach him or her the importance of open communication and compromise.