Communicating with your Teenager
The age old cliché about teenagers is that they don’t talk, they grunt!
It is true that teenage years mark a definite change in levels of communication between parents and their children.
Most parents, regardless of how close their relationship with their child was previously, would agree that communication gets harder once their child starts becoming a teenager and for some it just becomes plain hard work.
This can be especially true for single parents as you can end up feeling you’ve got to do two parents’ worth of communication!
However, with all the worries that accompany the teenage years, from drugs or drinking or relationships or pressure of school work, life can be a whole lot easier if there is good communication between you and your teenage child.
Communication isn’t just about talking. It is a two-way process that also involves listening.
You want your child to listen to you and the best way to achieve this is to show them how to do it by listening first. In fact, experts suggest that you listen for twice as long to your child as you speak. By showing them you are willing to listen it shows you are willing to understand and a young person who feels understood is going to be much more prepared to confide in you.
It is amazing how dramatically just listening can improve relations between parents and teens and you may discover things about your children that you had no idea about. Once your teenager realises you are prepared to listen they will more likely be prepared to listen to you which is great when you want to discuss something important that you need them to hear.
Of course, listening doesn’t mean you have to agree or accept what you child says – you can still express your own viewpoint.
For good communication to grow it is also important to show your teenager that you like them.
This perhaps sounds a bit simplistic but it’s surprising how many parents forget or take it for granted that their child will know.
Listening helps a lot with this, it shows that you value what they have to say and this in turn will make them feel liked.
It may be that you don’t always like what you hear because your child is developing ideas of their own and experimenting with their identity but by developing your listening skills you will not only help your teenager to be able to be more honest with you, but you may also be reminded of what a truly wonderful and interesting person he/she is!
One of the pitfalls of bringing up children as a single parent is that it is all too easy to make your child (particularly if you only have one) your best friend and confide in them about personal issues. If this is the relationship you have it can get particularly difficult in teenage years when there is a growing need for privacy and young people are trying to sort out in their own mind how they feel about things. It can get very confusing for them if, in addition to this, they have to deal with their parent’s emotions as well.
A healthy balance is between sharing enough information about what is going on in your life that they feel included in it and giving them the space to focus on what is going on for them. If you don’t have a good friend or circle of friends perhaps now is the time to join some groups and start making some!
Finally, nothing beats having a laugh for ensuring harmony between you and your teenager. Is there a comedy programme on television you both like and can make a point of watching together each week? Or perhaps a funny film on DVD or an occasional trip to the cinema? Or just remembering an old family joke that had you all in hysterics? Go on, have a laugh!
Read this great article with 5 top tips for dealing with disrespectful teenagers.