Raising a teenager is a challenge. Raising one that has struggled with behavioral issues can feel nearly impossible. The difficulties of parenthood aren’t easy to navigate, and there is no cut and dry manual to follow. It often comes down to trial and error, learning from mistakes and trying to improve in the future.
Communication is one of the most important elements to success. But communicating effectively with your teenager may seem like a monumental task. What you need isn’t a magic wand to make talking to your teen easy, but a change in perspective and methodology to improve your interactions.
Let’s look at some of the hurdles to overcome, so you can improve the quality of communication with your child.
What They Are Thinking VS What You Are Thinking
A great deal of conflicts, especially between parents and their children, come from incompatible thoughts. While your teen may be thinking, “Oh no, they are angry at me for XX!”, you may be thinking, “I am worried about XX and want to help them work through it.”
Common ground may also be difficult to find because both parties assumes the other is incapable of understanding. Teens think that their parents are too far removed from the concerns of the average youth to ever get what they are going through. Parents believe their teens are too young and inexperienced to have a valid opinion on life.
Bridging this gap by accepting that the other thinks differently than themselves is the first step towards healing a strained communication style.
Emotional Outbursts and Misunderstandings
It is important to reduce the number of emotional outbursts on the side of the parent. Unfortunately, you have no control over the reactions of your child. But you can help shift the tone of your talk away from painful accusations and words, and into a more calm discussion by controlling your own.
This can be difficult, especially when your teen is pushing buttons they know you have. You have to be strong and patient. By refusing to be drawn into hurtful attacks, you can maintain some order and turn a fight into a productive talk.
Practicing Active Listening and Understanding
Once a discussion has been engaged, it is your job to practice active listening and understanding with your teen, regardless of how the words may be presenting themselves. Try to hear beyond the tone of voice, and actually retain the message lingering beneath.
Keep some questions in mind:
- What is my teen saying?
- How does my teen feel?
- What may be causing them to feel this way?
- How do they feel this situation could be resolved?
- How can I help them meet this resolution?
Listen, Stay Calm, Communicate
Shame, anxiety and anger cloud the minds of even the most well adjusted teens. They are going through a period of extreme transition, further exacerbated by an uncertainty of the future.
Be patient, listen, and stay calm. Your communication with your teen will improve as a consequence.