Teenagers spend more time out of the family home than in it as they lead their busy lives. Often they return only to breeze through the house, grab a quick meal and then shut themselves in their room with music blaring. Other than a quick ‘Hello’ in passing it’s hard to find a lot of time to talk to teens. But it’s so important to talk to teens and keep the lines of communication open.
Keeping the connection
So much of teenager’s lives take place away from the prying eyes of parents. This is a natural consequence of their growing independence but the only way to be part of their lives is through conversation.
You don’t need to drill your reluctant teen and force them to spill every last detail about what went on at the party they went to last night. However, you can chat to them about whether it was fun, who turned up, whether anyone danced and whether there were any dramas. Open questions like this will spark conversation. What your teenager chooses to tell you can also give you vital clues as to how they are feeling. You can then pick up on any worries or concerns they may have.
Friends are important but parents still matter too
The teenage years can be turbulent times, with many new stresses and challenges along the way. Spending more time talking to friends and less time talking to parents is a normal part of teenagers establishing independence. However, they also need to feel that they still have a safe and stable base at home and parents who are interested in them, who care about them and who really ‘get them’.
If you can find a way to talk to teens, that shows that you are interested in their life and that you care about how they are feeling, then it can provide a vital balance against the uncertainties and insecurities they can face when they are away from home.
Teens still need a guiding presence
Teenagers are more independent but they are not yet adults and they still have a lot to learn. More than ever they need gentle guidance to help them along their way. If parents can find an effective way to talk to teens, it can make a real difference in guiding them through the tricky teenage years. Talking to your child shows them that you are interested in their lives and that you care about their feelings. Talking calmly, openly and without judgement can help your child see that you are on their side, even when you don’t always agree and that they can always come to you if they need help.
Providing the adult voice
With teenagers spending long days in school and then so much time of their free time with their friends, they will be exposed to a lot of peer influences and opinions. It’s very easy for them to become swept up by what their friends think. Sometimes a few of their friends’ ideas are not the wisest. If you can keep find a way to talk to teens, then you can provide an alternative adult voice and view of the world. This can gently guide them through the decisions they make.
If your child knows that they can talk to you openly about the big issues they face and that you will not judge or fly off the handle, then they will more likely come to you with questions, worries or problems. This can help protect your child from riskier teenage behaviour like alcohol and drug use.
Sharing your own experiences
Communication with your teenager is not a one-way street and it’s great to share tales and anecdotes from your own life. If you open up about your own memories of school, of friendships, of dating, of exams then it can help your child learn about the mistakes you made. They can respect you for the challenges you overcame and the strategies you learnt to get through any testing times. Hearing about your own life story can help your child open up and talk about what is different or the same for them. It can also help them explore their own feelings. Knowing that you faltered, picked yourself up and learnt from your mistakes can reassure your child that they can too. It can be a great way to talk to teens and to help you both feel connected.
Keeping tabs on your child’s emotional health
One of the most important reasons to communicate effectively with your teenage child, is so that you can be in tune with their emotional and mental health. If you can develop a supportive relationship together, your child is more likely to share any worries or problems with you. By spending time with your child and talking to them often, you are more likely to pick up on changes in their mood. Any bigger issues that are affecting their mental health, such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders will come through sooner. The more in tune you are with your teenage child, the better you will be able to realise when something is wrong. If you can pick up on any issues earlier then you can put in support more quickly.
A calm counterbalance
There is a lot going on in a teenage brain. The clash between emotional immaturity and a drive to experiment and take risks can lead your teenager to make rash decisions or respond in extreme ways. The stress of school, exams and friendship issues can take its toll on teenagers and affect their mood and behaviour. A teenager needs the guiding presence and the unconditional love of a parent to counterbalance of the highs and lows of teenage life. The very best way to provide this is through talking.