Effective Communication with Teens: “Nuts and Bolts”
In the last post of this series, I wanted to give a few practical ideas about having effective conversations with your teens. Throughout the series, we discussed timing, developing trust, and showing responsibility by taking your share of the hurt or wounding that may occur in conversations. These are all great ideas to keep in mind when you want to build better relationships with teens. I wanted to also compile a list of basic “ How To’s” when engaging kids that I have learned over the years of working with teens!
- Asking questions starting with “How” or “What”?: This is important in order to open up a broad conversation with someone. It is a practice to get to used to asking your children questions that promote more of an explanation than a yes or a no, and you can usually open up these conversations with the word “How” or “What”. Avoid using the word “ Why”. When you use the word “Why”, you are often putting people on the defensive. People immediately feel that they have to defend an action versus getting to the heart of the issue. So instead of “ Why did you do that?” Think: “What made you think to do that?” “How come you made that choice?” etc.
- Listening!: I know this is hard for us all! However, refrain from commenting throughout a story, interrupting, or wanting to interject another question before they are finished it. It is easy to get excited or frustrated in conversations, but being able to remain calm, and really focus on what they are saying with their words and their body language will go a long way in conversations with kids. They want to know that they have the space and the time with you to verbally process, and that you are not too much in a hurry for them to finish so that you can talk.
- Try hard not to give into FIXING: This can be very difficult at as well. When something happens to our kids, we want to go “ Mama Bear” on them, and start the battle plans of destruction for someone who may have hurt out kids etc. However, if this is something that they are able to take care of themselves, encourage them to do that. This can help with confrontation skills on their end, and is teaching them they have choices, and ways to manage their own issues. When you help someone with something that they can do themselves, this can lead to unhealthy care of that person in relationships. Another point about fixing is sometimes kids simply want you to listen! I know we all have days like that where we may just want to vent, there is not foreseeable solution to our problems but we just want to complain to someone who will say, “ I feel the same way, I understand, and I am sorry”. When people get into the fixing role, we may be ignoring the need that is currently there which is simply validating feelings and giving support.
- Confrontation: I help parents address issues with their kids on a daily basis. All parents have their different communication and parenting style, which I do not want to discount, however, I want parents and children to be EFFECTIVE in communication, sometimes it is hard to do this when confronting someone, or bringing an issue up. A best practice I have learned is laying two things if front of each other that don’t match up, and then asking them to explain. For example: “ I heard you say that you want to go to the concert on Friday night, but you have not started on your science project that needs to be completed before you go, help me understand what that means.” Or another example, “You signed up to join the book club after school, but have not been making any of the meetings, help me understand what that means.”
This is in no way an exhaustive list for communication help with teens, but I wanted to continue to give practical tips for building relationships with teens, and managing difficult conversations. Each situation is different, along with different personalities and dynamics therefore these are simply ideas to keep in mind! Thanks for tuning in !
***Disclaimer: This blog is the opinion of an individual and does not constitute professional advice or a professional relationship to the reader. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital or call 911.***