When your son or daughter hits puberty it can seem like they’ve become a completely different person. How do you nurture your relationship with them during this new phase of their life? How do you show compassion for what they are going through while still maintaining structure in your home? It all comes down to communication. Here are some basic tips for fostering better communication with your teenage child:
“I understand, but…”
Try to understand your child by seeing things from their perspective. However, using phrases like “I understand, but…” don’t really show any sort of understanding at all. Anything you say after you begin that way will disqualify the attempt to show compassion that you initiated with and will make your teenager feel like they need to defend themselves. Instead, try to show real compassion and understanding by putting yourself in their shoes. Once they feel like their worries, frustrations, or struggles have been validated, they will be more open to your suggestions and requests.
Don’t take it personally
When was the last time you made a good decision while in a highly emotional state? It doesn’t happen very often. You’ve probably made more bad decisions while emotionally compromised than good. The same is true when communicating with your teenager. If you start to take things personally, you’ll get emotional and nothing productive will come from that. Take a step back, and try to approach the situation calmly, logically, and professionally – even, and especially, if they don’t. Think of it as working together to solve a math equation rather than acting out a scene.
Ask the right questions
Asking questions can help your teenager see that you care about their thoughts and feelings, but asking the wrong type of questions can make them feel defensive. Questions like “Why don’t you do your chores when I ask?” aren’t an invitation to open up and explore the situation. More likely, they will shut down the conversation. Instead, try asking something like “What do you think would help you get your chores done on time?” Questions like that can help your child feel less like they are on trial and more like they are in a partnership working through this together. Asking sincerely for their ideas and opinions will help them feel and act like a contributing member of the family rather than the black sheep. It also conveys the notion that his problems aren’t yours to solve, but you’ll be there to support him as he figures them out.
Communicating with your teenager may not always be easy, but if you keep these tips in mind, you can avoid some of the stress and frustration while you rebuild and strengthen your relationship with your child.