Having healthy communication with your teen is important to their well-being. Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before adulthood and depression increases a teen’s risk for attempting suicide by 12 times. These numbers indicate teens need someone to turn to.
Some parents struggle having a dialogue with their growing teen for a number of reasons, including fear of certain topics, strictness or busy-ness. The tips below can help you open the lines of communication.
- Don’t judge.
If your teen comes to you and wants to talk, make the time. They are probably just as afraid as you are. Provide your teen with a comforting and welcoming environment. As a parent, you are the authority and their voice of approval and reason. Believe it or not, your teen listens to you. Be careful how you deliver the message.
- Set boundaries.
You want to provide your teen with a comforting environment, but you also need to let them understand that you are their parent, not their friend. Your teen needs to feel comfortable enough to talk to you. However, they also need to know they are not allowed to talk to you any type of way at any given time. Respect needs to be present at all times.
When setting boundaries, a parent also needs to be aware of not becoming enmeshed in their teen’s life. For example, don’t intervene in problems at school unless your teen asks you to do so. Most of the time, all they want is an ear. So do not cross boundaries and take it upon yourself to solve their problems.
- Think of the consequences.
What will happen if you do not talk to them? You need to overcome your fears and anxieties. Your teen needs the helpful knowledge you possess. Parents often are willing to talk to their teens and give information on succeeding in life, doing well in school, choosing a college or a major. However, parents are afraid to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol. Teens are prone to making life-changing mistakes if they do not have the right information. And you as a parent can help guide life-changing decisions with your knowledge.
Actively listen to your teen. Try to concentrate and understand what your teen is communicating to you.
- No coddling.
Whether you have a tween or a teenager, he or she is not the baby you brought home from the hospital. Do not treat him or her as such. Show that you care and recognize their feelings, but do not go overboard.
- Respect them.
If you want your teen to share his or her life with you and communicate, you need to show respect for what is important to him or her. Yes, you might find it minimal or trivial. But to them it’s everything. Think about how you feel when someone dismisses you and your feelings.
Another way to show respect is not to share what they tell you with other people. This is another way of dismissing their feelings. If they wanted to tell the world they would, but they did not. So you should not.
- Open Invitation.
Give your teen an open invitation to talk to you at any time. Knowing they can come to you and express themselves means the world to them. Communicate with them in various ways — talking in the car, after dinner, or texting. Do not make an excuse. A friend once told me, the way your kids spell love is T-I-M-E.
- Show them.
This tip seems like it’s the hardest and easiest at the same time. If you want your teen to communicate with you, you need to show them how. Children learn many things from their parents. This is one. Start young. Make sure your child knows they can talk to you about anything at any time.
These tips can be useful in talking with your teen. But if you are having difficulty or just don’t feel willing and able, participating in family therapy with a marriage and family therapist can help develop competencies and a dialogue between you and your teen.