Parents of teenagers we work with can often be found having a good laugh, discussing the array of interesting words and gestures that their teens have introduced them to. These speech patterns and lingo dubbed as ‘Teenage Talk’ (an outcome of their social and language development- as mentioned in 4 ways to monitor your teenager’s language development), is just one of the noticeable changes that take place during adolescence, causing some confusion for parents. Most parents also bemoan that they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the super sonic speed at which teenage culture trends change. These issues can easily contribute to a yawning communication gap between teenagers and their parents, often making it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship. While most parents in this era make a concerted effort to understand their children, there seem to be some slippages that occur causing unwanted friction. So, what can parents do to better communicate with their adolescent children?
Firstly parents should understand and accept that there is going to be a shift in dynamics between them and their child, as their teenager is growing and changing. Hence, they should be willing to adjust their expectations accordingly. Most parents agree that the ‘teenage years’ are the best ages to encourage independence whilst teaching safety and responsibility. While this might seem like a daunting task in this day and age; it is not entirely impossible. Here are some suggestions that can make communicating with your teenager easier.
The key to keeping an open channel of communication primarily involves understanding where your teenager comes from. You can do so by:
Reflecting on your teenage years. Although your teenager lives in a different era and is more likely to tackle varying social issues, there are bound to be similar mental, physical and emotional developments and challenges. Reflecting on your adolescence can help you relate to their struggles and maybe even understand their behaviour.
Educating yourself on what’s new. It is important to show some interest in your teenagers’ activities and even possibly educate yourself on their lingo, as it can help you better understand your child. Showing interest in the type of television programmes they watch or music they listen to, can help you put yourself in their shoes so as to better understand their perspective. Keeping up with the latest slang is also a good move as it can help you monitor your child’s safety. Updating yourself about the latest ‘red alert’ acronyms (e.g. GNOC- get naked on camera or SUGARPIC- a suggestive of erotic photo) will prove to be vital information that can protect your growing teen. Such information can be easily accessed through simple Google searches like “understanding teenage language” or “dangerous teenage language”.
Recognising that they are going through identity shifts and trying to become a self-sufficient individual. Acknowledging that this is a period of transformation can help you be more accepting of behavioural changes and increase your willingness to understand their perspective.
Understanding your teen sets up a good foundation of trust between you and your child. However, parents should also be aware of HOW they are coming across to their children during conversations. The key to this is to be aware of what you are doing and saying. Always try to be composed and patient (we know it is easier said than done, but kudos to you for trying!). Here are some suggestions that may help:
Be authentic about your emotions. The ongoing brain development and the ability to think like adults allow teenagers to see through inauthenticity. Hence, you should always try to be authentic without aggression.
Be honest and direct with your questions. Do not be manipulative with your questions as it can make you seem less trustworthy.
Remember that you are looking for a conversation not a lecture. Hence, it is important that you listen more (without yelling) and recognize their perspective. You don’t need to agree with their viewpoint; however acknowledging their thoughts and emotions without belittling them will encourage your teenager to open up to you.
Avoid impatient body language. E.g. folding your arms across your chest or rolling your eyes. Not all conversations go smoothly and it is easy to get agitated. However, impatient body language sets a confrontational tone to the exchange and can easily cause your teenager to clam up.
Say goodbye to ‘I told you so’ statements. With increasing brain maturity teenagers will only get better at picking out logical fallacies. Hence, it is a good idea to discuss issues and reason them out with them instead of commanding them to do something. Try to make joint decisions where possible.
Try to use ‘I’ statements. For example, instead of saying “You are so irresponsible and inconsiderate, you never tell me where are heading”, you can say “I worry about you when I don’t know where you are”.
1. McKay, T. (2012, 02 09). Understanding your teen's slang. Retrieved 02 03, 2015, from sheknows: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/947741/understanding-your-teens-slang
2. Osterweil, N. (2003, 08 06). Talking With Teens-Tips for Better Communication. (C. E. Mathis, Ed.) Retrieved 02 02, 2015, from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/better-communication-with-teens
3. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2014, 10 10). Family Life. Retrieved 02 04, 2015, from healthychildren.org: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Talking-With-Your-Teen-Tips-For-Parents.aspx
4. Better Health Channel. (2012, 06). Parenting-communicating with teenagers. Retrieved 02 02, 2015, from Better Health Channel: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Parenting_communicating_with_teenagers
5. Hudson, C. (n.d.). 5 Mistakes Adults Make Communicating with Teenagers. Retrieved 02 04, 2015, from Understanding Teenagers: http://understandingteenagers.com.au/blog/2010/07/5-mistakes-adults-make-communicating-with-teenagers/
These suggestions may help you hold better conversations with your teenager, ultimately setting you up as a good role model for your child. The above- mentioned tips coupled with patience, forgiveness and unconditional love will definitely help you raise self-sufficient young adults. However, if there are still certain moments where you feel like you might need a little help, feel free to contact Brainworks Education.
Our Life Coaching services are geared towards helping you improve aspects of your life such as relationships, by examining what is going on right now, discovering the possible obstacles or challenges and coming up with the best choices for you based on your vision.