Teenagers can often seem like another species. “Where did my sweet little 11-year-old go?” moans many a parent. But if Mom and Dad can remember that teens are in a rapid period of growth, where things are changing quicker than they can keep up with, parents can disengage from the typical control battles and become a source of support of their maturing kids.
Here are five tips to make communication easier with your teen.
Feed him or her.
Okay, maybe it seems silly or obvious. But most kids are still growing, and they are hungry all the time. It’s no fun to talk with someone who’s hangry, especially a teenager. If you can erase a bad temper with a little food, do it!
Take the pressure off.
Don’t expect teenagers to engage in deep conversations or answer questions about grades or issues they may be having at school every time you are together. Kids are smart. Pretty soon they won’t want to spend time with you because they know it’s a prelude to something unpleasant.
Don’t take things personally.
Remember, you are the adult and you can set the tone. If your teenager is cranky, maybe he was embarrassed by something that happened at school. Or maybe she forgot to study and failed a pop quiz. Teenagers don’t always share everything. If you listen without judgment and emotion, it’s more likely your teen will feel comfortable opening up about what’s on his or her mind. But if you lose your cool, your teenager will be happy to clam up or engage in battle, which helps no one.
Validate, but don’t try to solve their problems.
Teenagers are on the verge of independence. The last thing most teens want is for Mommy or Daddy to come rushing to their rescue. And we do them no favors by bailing them out of tight spots on a regular basis. Parents have perspective and want to help. But the wisest course of action is often to simply watch and listen. Let your kids know you are available. But grant them the space where they can choose to ask for help.
Praise and envision the best.
All kids need to know that someone believes in them. While teenagers may act like know-it-alls, they aren’t. Even when teens are making the same mistakes over and over, they need grace. If kids only hear about their failures, they have no reason to hope. But when parents envision a positive future for their kids and lovingly praise them for their small efforts, teenagers will usually do their best to prove them right.
Remember, we only have our teenagers for a few years. Make those years worthwhile!