Talking with Your Teen
Adolescence is a time when teens begin to assert their independence and make decisions about things that have real consequence. But since teens aren’t good at regulating their emotions yet, they are prone to taking risks and making impulsive decisions. Because of this, it is important to have a healthy and trusting parent-child relationship where you can support and help your teen as he make his own choices. Here are some tips that can help you as you communicate with your teen:
If you want to know what’s going on in your teen’s life, asking direct questions might not be as effective as simply listening. Teens are more likely to open up with their parents if they don’t feel pressured to share information. Remember that even an offhand comment from your teen about something that happened that day is his way of reaching out, and you’re likely to hear more if you stay open and interested, rather than prying.
Validate His Feelings
It’s instinctive to want to solve your teen’s problems and downplay their disappointments. But saying something like “She wasn’t right for you anyway” after a romantic disappointment can feel dismissive. Instead, show your teen that you understand and empathize by reflecting the comment back: “Wow, that does sound difficult.”
Show Trust and Give Praise
Teens want to be taken seriously, especially by their parents. Look for ways to show that you trust your teen. Asking him for a favor shows that you rely on him. Volunteering a privilege shows that you think he can handle it. Letting your teen know that you have faith in him will boost his confidence and make him more likely to rise to the occasion. Give him praise when he does something well. Parents tend to praise children more when they are younger, but adolescents need the self-esteem boost just as much. Teens might act like they’re too cool to care about what their parents think, but the truth is your son still wants your approval.
Don’t Be a Dictator and Control Your Emotions
You still set the rules, but be ready to explain them. While pushing the boundaries is natural for teens, hearing your thoughtful explanation about why parties on school nights aren’t allowed will make the rule seem more reasonable. When your teen doesn’t respond well, control your emotions. It’s easy for your temper to flare when your teen acts rude, but don’t let your emotions take over. Remember that you’re the adult and he is less able to control his emotions or think logically when he’s upset. Count to ten or take some deep breaths before responding. If you’re both too upset to talk, take a break until you’ve both had a chance to calm down.
Do Things Together
Talking isn’t the only way to communicate. Quality, fun times together can help your son know that you care about him. Do things together that you both enjoy, like cooking, hiking, or going to the movies together. Do these things without talking about anything personal. It’s important for your teen to know that he can be in proximity to you and share positive experiences without having to worry about intrusive questions or getting a lecture.
It’s normal for teens to go through some changes as they mature, but pay attention if you notice changes to your teen’s mood, behavior, energy level, or appetite. Likewise, take note if he stops wanting to do things that used to make him happy or if he’s isolating himself. If you see a change in your teen’s daily ability to function, ask him about it and be supportive, without being judgmental. He may need your help and maybe even professional help.