Communication is exchange of information mostly through speaking and at times through writing. This is how a majority of us may define the word communication, but, teenagers may either smirk or laugh at such a definition branding it as obsolete or archaic. In the digital era that we live in, communication has taken an altogether different meaning especially for teenagers. Their communication with parents as in speaking to them is limited to monosyllable answers, a nod or a shrug. Most of the parents are at their wits end trying to elicit a few sentences out of their teenage wards.
The teenage years make parenting even more complicated as the child starts making decisions that will have real consequences. Teen communication is a vital aspect which should neither be overlooked nor undermined. Both boys and girls at this stage undergo various hormonal changes which may affect their mental state in terms of making wrong choices or indulging in bad habits due to peer pressure. Communication thereby becomes a powerful tool which may help them in de-cluttering various aspects of their lives.
It is very important to have a healthy relationship with your teen in this crucial time of their lives. While your child might be speaking constantly to friends, teachers or the other family members, they might become mute when you ask them about how their day went.
If things like these concerns you and you want to avoid feeling left out in your teen’s life, take a deep breath and remind yourself your child is going through a phase that will pass and that your job has become even more important as a parent.
Here are some tips to help you out with the changing role as a parent:
Listen – Did you know kids are more likely to share and tell their parents about their day if they don’t feel pressured about it. Even an offhand comment about their friends, day or school is a way of reaching out to you. So, avoid asking/commenting and just try and listen to them.
Acknowledge Their Emotions – This is how you evolve your parenting in teens, by trying not to solve their every problem. When your child shares an issue e.g. a bad breakup, be more empathizing than commenting on the situation with something like “He wasn’t good enough for you anyway” instead go for something more empathizing e.g., “It must be very hard”.
Show Trust – Your child wants to be taken seriously. As a parent we tend to not take our kids seriously and often ignore their suggestions in a family matters. Try not doing that, instead listen, acknowledge and discuss both points of view. Give them an equal say if you feel convinced, in case you disagree politely share the reasons. This will show you have trust in him.
Give Space– I often see parents spoon feeding their children even till the age of 12. Privacy and space is important to all teens, they want to lead an independent life where they feel they are capable of taking right decisions. Avoid advising, dictating or even suggesting until you are asked by your teen. However, if your teen is showing major signs of acting out (eg, aggression, depression, anxiety) then please reach out to them and help them out as soon as possible.
Praise – Even though they might act too cool for this, secretly they still want your approval. And it is very important that you show your child how proud you are and acknowledge all the good things he does. But remember praising to boost motivation and inspire is often mistook for raising the child expectations in his/her own eyes. Such children face difficult times when they suffer failure. E.g. use praises like “I saw you putting a lot of hard work during the match today” Vs “You were the best player today”.
Spend Time Together – As a teen, your child’s hobbies and likings will change. Embrace this new change; show them how excited you are to do new and more exciting things with them. Ask them to plan a day and be a part of their planned day. This way you will have more time to communicate with them.Avoid Arguing– Don’t react to anger with anger, try focussing on healthy discussions. When dealing with a difficult situation first calm down, give your child a glass of water and relax. In a calming tone, raise your point of view and discuss it while simultaneously listening to your child’s point of view. Try to take a middle path in the end if it is safe for your child.
Eat 1 Meal Together – Try to eat meals together, as often as you can. Maybe take your teen out for dinner to his/her favorite place once in two weeks. Encourage teens to cook their favorite meal together. Like most teenagers enjoy a pizza or pasta. Make a trip with your teen to pick up the ingredients, involve them to pick up the best recipe from the internet. Let them decide how they want their food to look like.
Don’t Dictate – Avoid just giving them instructions or rules. It’s important for teens to know that they can share positive experiences, without having to worry that you will pop intrusive questions or judge them for their actions.
Have Fun – The most important part of parenting. Always have fun with your kids. There might be days when they don’t like you, which is fine in this age, but make sure on the days they like you, you all are having a ball. Brainstorm on activities together and do something fun which you both enjoy. E.g. go for a swim together, go for a coffee together, Enjoy a concert that your teen has been wanting to go.
Lastly, don’t forget your teenager is a person growing into an adult and they would require all your support during this time. So, be patient and choose your battles wisely.
(Pratibha Kashyap is the Founder Coach4Parenting. She is a Parenting Coach, a Child Behavior Specialist and has a Masters in Parenting Communication)