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How-To Have Open Communication With Your Teen

Relating with your teen isn’t the easiest thing to do – and there was no parenting manual that arrived with your child at birth. For a parent, the teen years are known for being an especially hard time to try to connect with your son or daughter. These days, connecting with a teen is even harder than before as now they have way more things to distract themselves with; things like social networks, TV, cell phones, etc. and more ways to gather information, much of which isn’t always accurate or helpful. All of these distractions and information sources make it even harder on a parent who is just trying to connect, educate and relate to their teenager. Life for a teenager is a challenging one, and they often are trying to negotiate these obstacles on their own. Attempting to be independent is part of this “teenage” phase – not involving their parents in their struggles is common. Going through these challenges and the decision-making process is a fundamental piece of their growth and development, and independence is the ultimate goal. However, we also know that teenagers still have a developing brain, which can impact healthy decision-making. Therefore, the ultimate parental goal is to foster and support the teen’s attempt at decision-making while still providing support and guidance. All of which can be done while still moving the teen towards that healthful independence. There are so many obstacles and tests that your growing child is going to face in those formative years. They will encounter issues with popularity, media influence, body image, dating, bullying, drugs, alcohol, sex, and more. As a parent you hope that your child won’t have to live through these hardships so young, but unfortunately for most teens they deal with these things everyday and as a parent it is your job to make sure that you put open communication in place from the start. You have to let your child know that you are there for them always, and that you will love them no matter what. It is important to listen fully and not get distracted or only focused on what you want to stay or tell them. It is most important to hear what they are saying and for them to know they are being heard. Be sure to let you children know how available you are for them. It will make a big difference when they see you’re actually making an effort…even if they do roll their eyes and tell you to get out of their room…they appreciate it. Keep this following list in mind when you are talking to your son or daughter. It will help you try to make that communication connection you are looking for. A Few Notes from…the “Manual” that parents are never actually given : …from the fictional Chapter 3, Parent-Children Communication 101 Encourage your child to talk with you:
  1. Help your children tell you what’s important to them in their lives.
  2. Avoid criticism and judgment – keep an open mind.
  3. Take time to understand your child’s point of view, even if you disagree. Empathy is very important.
  4. Repeat what you hear you child saying to let them know you are listening.
  5. Encourage your child to make choices and plans – help them to problem-solve.
How to talk to your child:
  1. Research indicates that the more open communication that you have with your child, the safer the teen’s behaviors typically are.
  2. Do not have spontaneous “discussions” because something is on your mind – plan a time to talk about an issue or concern.
  3. Keep the “talk” calm, simple, and clear – no need for long stories or to try to convey “a message or lesson” – just address the issue.
  4. Engage in active listening throughout the interaction.
  5. Be aware of how your child is responding. Are you “losing” them? Are they glazing over? Are they becoming defensive or argumentative? If yes to any of those questions, you need to evaluate (i.e. switch) your approach. *If the “talk” is about a safety issue, then you may have to disregard their reaction and just implement the necessary consequences.
  6. What if you and your child start arguing? Stop! Arguments are not productive. Stay calm and clear but don’t engage. If your child will not stop – you may need to end the conversation and walk away. *If the “talk” is about a safety issue, then you may have to disregard their reaction and just implement the necessary consequences.

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