In her article, “5 Tips For Communicating With Teens,” author and mom of three teenagers, Autumn Ward, explores how we can keep the lines of communication open on every topic, including dating. Communication is a two-way street. Often, the reasons teenagers choose not to talk with their parents are because they feel like their parents don’t listen or will get mad at what they tell them. Parents, on the other hand, feel like their teens just won’t talk to them. Who’s right? In most cases, they both are. But don’t lose hope! Below are five ways we as parents can help open the lines of communication with our teenagers.
1. Just listen
We know being in listening mode isn’t possible 24/7, but we still need to show our teens that we’re open to listening when they need us. And we can pretty much guarantee it will happen when we’re on the phone, making dinner or headed to bed. When this happens, do whatever it takes to give your teenager your undivided attention. (This may require making coffee at 11:00 p.m.)
Be encouraging, supportive and positive. If your teenager has a fight with a friend, this is not the time to say, “I never liked that friend anyway!” That’s a door slammer. Try, “Are you okay?” Or, “Sometimes friends fight. Hopefully the two of you will be able to work it out. Do you want to talk about it?”
3. Say, “I don’t know”
Know that it’s okay not to know the answer. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” but follow it with: “We can try and find out together.” And don’t miss out on this opportunity to point your teenager to God who does know all the answers and always has a listening ear.
4. Be kind
Treat your teenager the way you’d want to be treated. We already know that, don’t we? We all want to treat our family well, but somehow it’s tempting to do things in conversations with our kids that we’d never do when talking to adults— things like bringing up past mistakes or embarrassing moments. Nothing creates distance in a relationship like shame. So at this critical phase, when it’s so important to keep the conversation going, be careful to guard that relationship by being kind and encouraging—not critical and shaming.
5. Be patient
Sometimes we just need to be quiet. There are two answers to the question, “Do you want to talk?” If the answer is “no,” you need to respect that. Even if it takes a huge piece of duct tape placed over your mouth, do your best not to push. You can keep the lines of communication open by saying, “Okay, but I’m here when you need me to listen.”
by Autumn Ward
For more from Autumn or to connect to a wider community of parents, check out www.parentcue.org