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How do I communicate with my teenager?

At times it may feel like your teenager is emotionally distancing themselves from you. In reality though, they’re going through a confusing time of change and they probably need you now more than ever. Whether you want to discuss something major or you’re just checking in on how they’re doing – here’s some advice for communicating with a teenager.

Be open with them and they will be open with you

Being a teenager isn’t easy and by telling your teen you understand what they’re going through they’ll probably feel more comfortable opening up to you. In the end you are only looking out for your child’s best interest – let them know you’re on their side . When talking to your children it’s important for parents to be emotionally authentic.

Show them you respect them

As with all adults, teenagers react well to trust and respect. Where appropriate, include your teen in adult conversations. This shows them you trust them and respect their input. If something is concerning you about their behaviour try to talk about it with them rather than lecturing them about it. Most people’s natural response to lecturing is to shut down. When you’re trying to find out information it helps to ask your teen curious questions that open up a conversation and avoid any loaded ones. 

Create a fair environment

We all appreciate things more when we’re treated fairly. Creating an environment that is fair for your teenager can help prevent emotional outbursts. One way to ensure things are fair is to prepare your teen in advance of important discussions. If you can, try to briefly tell them what you want to discuss and when you intend to talk about it in advance. For example tell them on the way to school about a conversation you wish to have after dinner. This way they’ll have the same amount of time to prepare themselves for the conversation as you do.

Help them to understand your point of view/ situation

When setting boundaries try to help your child understand your point of view. Understanding the reasons for certain rules may encourage your teen to stick to them more. Perhaps your goal is to allow your child to stay out later on Saturday night – try to explain any concerns you may have about things such as their safety and whereabouts. A solution could be to get your child to text you at certain times in the night and notify you immediately if there is a change of plans. Some teenagers may try to find loopholes in the rules – keeping the boundaries watertight can prevent this. 

For more articles on family health, check out previous Vhi Health Hub articles here.