During adolescence, teens are going to develop close relationships with their friends, and at the same time, they are going to start pulling away from their parents and family. Teens might become less talkative, share less about their lives, and spend time alone in their rooms.
Because teens are learning to find a sense of self separate and apart from the family in which they were raised, they start to place emphasis and value on their social relationships. Teens might also look for mentors and even “try on” different personalities. With a growing distance from the family, it might make relating to your teen more difficult. However, remember that your teen is simply learning to find their way to adulthood. They are trying to find themselves while at the same time facing the challenges of adolescence.
So they may need your help from time to time. For this reason, having tools for communicating effectively can help keep your relationship strong. Here are some tips to consider:
- Start with a topic that your teen may be interested in. For instance, sometimes a scene from a movie or TV show can be a shared experience that can prompt a good conversation. Or it might be a song lyric, a news story, or something that has happened in the neighborhood. These can be effective conversation starters, especially events that are current and timely. This can elicit a teen’s true thoughts and feelings.
- Avoid accusations or expressing your authority. Instead, lovingly and openly express your concern. Taking the I-know-better-than-you approach often isn’t going to work with teens. Instead, a good way to start is to ask, “What do you think about that?” Instead of speaking to a teen as though he or she is the child and you are the adult, connect with that adolescent as you would with another adult. When teens hear language that sounds phony, condescending, or patronizing, it tends to invoke a lack of trust, anxiety, defensiveness, and even anger.
- Use natural, everyday language. This will facilitate a less threatening conversation and help your teen open up. The trick is to make the conversation sound natural. Use every day, normal language versus any premeditated scripts.
- Show respect. Treating a child with respect and maturity facilitates him or her rising to the way in which he or she is being seen.
- Develop trust by protecting your teen’s dignity. Rather than pointing out any inconsistencies you hear in a teen’s stories – and because they are still finding themselves, inconsistencies might easily be heard – protect their developing sense of self. Instead, find the meaning of their stories and focus on that.
- Let your teen know that you care. This can ease the feeling of loneliness that your child might be experiencing especially if he or she is facing a problem. Communicate that you will accompany your child each step of the way.
These are suggestions for talking with teens in a healthy way. You want to promote your teen’s maturity and independence, and these are suggestions to do just that.