With all the busyness that parenting teenagers entails (homework, sports, after-school activities, sleepovers, college applications, financial aid, finals, parent/teen relationship struggles, etc.), sometimes practicing good communication can fall to the wayside. It’s important to remember that we will never influence and empower our teens to be their best selves without applying effective communication strategies .
Are you struggling to “get through” to your teen? Feeling like you don’t know how to communicate with them as they’re gaining independence and you’re releasing control? This second installment in our three-part series will fill your toolbox with practical ideas to set them up for success (and feel good about it yourself, too!).
If you missed the first two strategies, check out last week’s blog.
Strategy 3: Value and recognize the person more than the performance.
We all want our children to do their best. But, isn’t it more important for them to be their best? Over the past decade or two, our culture has been breeding “performance parents.” You know, folks who define their own identity and success by the performance of their children. You see it in the stands at Little League games and the desire for “bragging rights” when socializing with other parents.
I witness this firsthand when I speak with teenagers at schools. Many are heartbroken and resentful because of the pressure they feel, the comparison to siblings who are performing better, and the perceived lack of interest by their parents in the person they’re becoming. It’s not healthy and these pressure tactics don’t set them up for success. Rather than feeling valued, they feel controlled, as if managed by a driving supervisor..
Whenever possible, honor the admirable character qualities and behaviors of your children. Instead of simply praising their 3.5 GPA, honor their perseverance, discipline, efforts to improve, character, resilience, and dedication to excellence. Recognize their journey and what got them there, not just the destination. Express your pride in them, even when they don’t take first place. Show them that your love and belief is unconditional. Help them see how much you believe in them.
Strategy 4: Test the waters and start with positivity.
It’s not uncommon for teens to experience greater mood swings for reasons we don’t always know or understand. It’s hard when the child who at one point couldn’t stop talking is now the aloof and uncommunicative teen. Sometimes they just need to be alone. It’s important we respect that. It’s been one of my biggest growth areas as a father because I’m an analytic and so interested in their world.
When your teen is quieter than usual, it pays to test the waters with simple, non-controversial questions to take his or her “communication temperature.” If his answers are brief, or his mood seems closed, give him space and let him know that you’ll be around to chat if he wants. Try again the next day, or when you notice his or her temperament is a bit more upbeat and open. Here comes the most crucial part: try to start your conversations with a positive tone or topic. Even when we have tough conversation topics to discuss, it helps to get off on the right foot by saying something that will be appreciated. Negativity from the outset will only close the door. (Note to parents: If you notice your teen’s lack of communication is extended or out of character for them, it may be a sign of deeper struggles they’re experiencing. Be attentive to that possibility and gently ask if everything is okay.)
Communicating with teenagers who may be moody, closed-off, or eager for independence can be difficult. I’m sure it was for our parents, too! Remember to recognize their journey (not just the end result), give them space when they need it, and stay positive. Stay tuned for next week’s post to learn more strategies for effectively communicating with your teenage children or students.
What strategies have you employed when it comes to communicating with your teen? Have you found some methods that work—and some that don’t? Feel free to chime in—we’d love to hear from you!