5 Ways to Communicate with Your Teen
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
My teenager won’t talk to me. All I get is one-word answers. My son just grunts when I ask about his day. Sound familiar? Your pre-teen seems to have changed overnight and you have no idea how to communicate with this quite, private - even sulky - teenager. There is hope! A few key changes can open up the lines of communication:
1. Try shoulder-to-shoulder communication. Have you ever driven your teen to an extracurricular or social event and find that your typically-silent teen can’t stop talking? This is should-to-shoulder communication. They are not faced with the discomfort of eye contact, the pressure to have something to share, or the dreaded “how was school?".
2. How to create space for shoulder-to-shoulder communication:
Take your teen with you on an errand (even if she spends half of that time texting). Sing along to their favorite song in embarrassing-parent style in the car. Do a task with their help (Want to win big? Ask for their input on how to do the task). Schedule something they enjoy just to spend time together. It may take a while for your teenager to open up. Make this a new norm of your relationship. Let it build some positive connection, and see where it takes you.
3. Understand and validate your teenager’s feelings. A break up with a boyfriend of two-weeks feels like the end of the world to your teenager. It’s tempting to view their problems as small. To your teen, the hurtful comment from a friend, that petty text, or criticism from a teacher is the biggest problem they can fathom. Listen to how they feel and treat their big emotions like they matter to you. Show your teen that you get - and care about - how significant this problem is for them.
4. Fight the urge to overreact. Your teenager shuts down when you lose your cool or “go off” when they cop an attitude. Learn why you and your teenager overreact to each other. Model for your teen that you are changing. Teens know that their parents are not perfect; your humility in being able to admit that goes a long way. Then work with your teen on why they overreact and how you can help them change.
5. Have a “Come to me when you are in trouble” rule. For open communication, teens need to know they do not have to hide their mistakes for fear of punishment. The most effective deterrents are often natural consequences. If your teenagers comes to you with their confession, allow them to experience the consequences inherent to the problem without additional punishments. Use the little things to prove to your teen that they can come to you for help. If you do not yell, shame, cold-shoulder, or ground them for coming to you about small problem behaviors, then they will come to you with the “I’m pregnant” or “I am drinking with my friends” type of problems - and open communication makes them less likely to face these big problems!