"Teens and Communication"Posted: Updated:
As a counselor of teens for over 10 years I do want to mention if you haven't opened the line of communication before the teen years you're going to have a really rough time of it. You need to build a level of respect (I call it healthy fear) long before they are 13. You are not their friend (they have plenty of those) you are a parent and there should be reverence for you long before then.
What helped you to keep the lines of communication open with your teens? NO CELL PHONES! It drives me crazy that people communicate "feelings" over texts. That's terrible.
Were there things you tried that did not work? You can not force a teen to talk. Time just spent in silence sometimes helps. You have to be willing to take the time to shut up and truly listen to your child. Also most teens don't like to be nutured...do it anyway. Hug them, kiss them, find time to have fun, play even in times of anger (I like water sprayers for this).
We played alot of board games. Games give you time where you are face-to-face (no cell phones allowed) and you have to talk to each other. Things become interesting in those conversations.
Did you have to use a different approach with each of your kids? No. I pretty much approach my kids the same. It's their personalities that made communication different sometimes. Did gender make a difference?
For me, gender was not an issue.
Any advice for parents who are getting into the teen years?
Spend time NOW setting down what your expectations are for school, friends, and dating and be brave enough to STICK TO THEM!
DO WHAT YOU SAY AND SAY WHAT YOU DO! Parenting a teeneager is NOT for wimps.
I am finding the teen years to be a whole new world- the level of risk goes up and new elements like social media exist now, that did not when I was a teenager. While Sam having a cell phone is helpful to our communication about facts or a change of plans, it also has it's drawbacks.
Just when I feel I have mastered a developmental stage, they change the rules and enter into a new one!
I've presented youth leadership workshops through Workshops for Youth and Family for years and what is lacking most in this stage is healthy communication and understanding btw/ parents and teens. Feedback from both teens and their parents is the same- nobody feels respected or understood.
Teens need to feel listened to, that they have some control and that their opinion is valued. The goal is to balance that with family boundaries and rules. If a teenager doesn't feel that they have any control or that nobody cares to listen to their thoughts/feelings, it's typically the root cause for either depression or rebellion (introvert/extrovert).
My goal with my first teenager (Sam), and my teenage nephews who are like sons, is to keep the lines of communication open so that they trust me and will keep talking. From the time they were little I have been very intentional about listening without showing judgement, and answering questions honestly, in an effort to create a safe environment for continued communication.
If I listen more than talk, I learn so much and can read between the lines about some social scenarios or situations he might encounter. I am finding that his friends will share a lot of facts and opinions when they come over, as well. They need the safety to be able to do so, without being judged. I have had some of them share information that has to do with their own poor choices and we've had to discuss that they need to tell their parents certain things if their safety is jeopardized. I have offered to be present for that or to role play what they might say.
I work hard to not show a reaction when I hear something that could be shocking, and to respond with questions more than opinions in an effort to keep the conversation going. That can be challenging when I can see a situation more clearly at my age than Sam can while he is in the middle of it. I provide suggestions and we discuss pros/cons to a lot of potential decisions, as well as potential outcomes. My husband and I provide very clear expectations about what our standards and boundaries are, and I think the kids need that, as well.
Developmentally, the teen years are like the terrible twos in the way that the person in the stage is defining identity and seeking independence. So I equate the hormonal outbursts or attitude with a toddler tanturm, only with more risks involved now.
The attitude that comes with the hormones in this stage is my biggest challenge and often the block to our effective communication. I know it's karma, because I dished out my fair share of attitude to my parents, but I really try to be intentional about not engaging and staying calm when my teenager is getting agitated with me. We can communicate about anything, as long as the tone is respectful. When that changes, if I can keep my cool, I usually remind him that he can always talk with/to me if he can do it respectfully. If he's not ready to do that at that time, he can try it again later with a calm and respectful tone and I will listen. Otherwise, taking his phone and electronics usually is the reminder he needs to speak to me with respect. If I stay calm, he will usually come to me in his own time for an apology and explanation. When the emotions settle, we all are much better are effectively communicating.