PARENTING: How to communicate freely with your Teenager
As a child, he talked to you about everything. As a teenager, he tells you nothing. When you try to converse, he either gives clipped responses or ignites an argument that turns your home ground into a battleground. Many parents are finding it increasingly difficult to keep the communication line open with their teenagers.
One factor responsible for this is their quest for independence. To become a responsible adult, your teenager must gradually move from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat and learn to navigate life’s treacherous roadways. Of course, some teenagers want more freedom than they should have; on the other hand, some parents grant less freedom than they could. The tug-of-war that may result can create considerable turmoil for parents and teens.
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Below are some practical suggestions on what you can do as a parent to keep the communication open with your teens:
When possible, have casual chats. Take advantage of informal moments. For example, some parents have found that teenagers are more apt to open up while doing chores or while riding in the car, when they are side-by-side with a parent rather than face-to-face.
Keep it brief. You do not have to argue every issue to the bitter end. Instead, make your point . . . and then stop. Most of your message will be “heard” by your teenager later, when he’s alone and can ponder over what you have said. Give him a chance to do so.
Listen—and be flexible. Listen carefully—without interrupting—so that you can get the full scope of the problem. When replying, be reasonable. If you rigidly adhere to rules, your teen will be tempted to look for loopholes.
Stay calm. Your teens will shy away and distance themselves if you take offense at everything I say. Rather than overreact, say something that “mirrors’ your teen’s feelings. For example, instead of saying, “That’s nothing to worry about!” say, “I can see how much this bothers you
To the extent possible, guide, don’t dictate. Your teen’s abstract thinking skills are like muscles that need to be developed. So when he faces a dilemma, do not do his “exercising” for him or her. As you discuss the matter, give him a chance to come up with some solutions of his own. Then, after you have brainstormed a few options, you could say: “Those are a few possibilities. Think them over for a day or two, and then we can get together again to talk about which solution you prefer and why