Improving communication with your teen can be challenging, but never-the-less, one of the most important things you can do to have a strong, long-lasting relationship. The trouble is, it can be hard to get children to talk once they hit the teenage years. What can you do about this? Below are 5 things you can do to improve communication with your teen.
1. Make time for them: Young children spend a vast amount of time with their parents because they depend on them for ongoing learning and safety. Develop routines or schedule specific times when your teen can count on having your attention.
2. Make it safe for them to share: A young child shares their joys, needs, excitement, and fears more freely than teens. Getting your teen to share requires “trust”. Trust often comes when parents listen without judgment.
3. Share your values and beliefs: Listening without judgment does not mean that you can’t express your values and opinions. Take advantage of “teachable moments”. Talking with your teen about important issues at informal and random times takes the emotional energy out of the equation. Try talking while you are riding in the car together, or doing a fun activity. You will be surprised how much they open up!
4. Be yourself: Express pieces of who you are with your teen. We all feel closer to people when we share in their joys, disappointments, and interests. Not only will you model appropriate disclosure, but you will build value and trust with your teen.
5. If All Else Fails, Enjoy the Silence: Sometimes your teen just won’t talk, and sometimes that is just fine. Let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk and try to enjoy the silence. Try watching a movie together or going to the bookstore. Sometimes, those settings give you something to talk about.
Having good communication requires being able to express yourself, while having empathy and compassion for others. It is not always the easiest thing for parents to have empathy and compassion for their teens, or for teens to have empathy and compassion for parents. If you focus on understanding yourself and building the relationship, communication will come.