6 Easy steps to better communication with your teen
Healthy communication is a worthy goal to aspire to in any relationship. Whether it is between friends, colleagues, spouses, or parents, we all strive to understand and to be understood. It isn’t until we have a breakdown in communication that we come to realize just how vital clear connections are to our sense of well-being. There are times when struggles between parents and their teen-age children seem impossible to overcome. Hormones are changing, brain chemistry is altered, and limits are tested. This is a moment in time when families can find themselves lost within the safety of their own lives. In spite of the struggles such transformations bring with them, there are also prime opportunities here for parents to make a significant impact upon the developing psyche of their impressionable young ones.
Remaining focused on the underlying needs behind your child’s behavior makes it easier to connect with and influence them in a positive way. Intentional Solutions (2015) outlines six key components to addressing these needs in order for communication to be effective.
First, and most importantly, the child must feel valued. Before any headway is to be made, there must be a strong foundation of respect which can only come if they have some value to offer the situation. Letting your teen know that they have a meaningful role to play within your family can go a long way when difficult conversations are occurring.
Secondly, sincere validation creates a sense of calming and has the ability to neutralize stubborn positions. Letting your child know that what they are feeling is real, and that you can see where they are coming from, opens the conversation to be more than a one-sided power struggle.
Third, unconditional acceptance of who your son or daughter is at the core of their personality has the potential to soften the hardest of hearts. When feelings of insecurity, confusion and doubt take center stage, knowing they are fully accepted for who they are reminds them that they are ‘ok’.
Fourth, simply conveying that you are listening, you see them, and you hear their position creates an atmosphere which does not require struggle and defense. Now there is space for a mutual exchange.
Fifth, find a way to bring understanding to the situation. It doesn’t matter how old we may think we are, we can always remember a time when we may have struggled with similar issues. Talk about it openly and show them that they are not alone.
Finally, remember to follow through with deliberate and accountable Due Process. In other words, commit to see the conversation to completion. If a time out needs to buffer heated feelings, take it, but quickly return to resolve the matter at hand. By doing so, future trust within the relationship is strengthened.
As with any new behavior, practice is key. It is natural to struggle in the beginning; but with a little persistence, any effort you give has the potential to pay off exponentially.