Talking to, and not at, your teen

By Faeza
01 April 2016


You and your teen: two different worlds, two different perspectives – and a giant disconnect that can make communication a real mystery. That’s because distance, the ‘nobody loves me' syndrome, and being explosive, are often the only ways teenagers know how to communicate when things get intense. This in turn only causes more conflict.

Does this sound familiar?

You as parents are thinking, “How could I have raised such an inconsiderate child? He’s/she's so disrespectful!” Your teenager is thinking, “God, you just don’t understand! Leave me alone!” You as a parent end up completely overwhelmed and wondering, “Why doesn’t my child listen to me? Does he/she have to fight me on everything?”

It is no secret that the relationship between parents and teenagers is typically a complicated one. When adolescence hits, the teenagers turn away from their moms and dads towards their friends - that’s when things get really tricky. Parents grapple with the hurt of rejection while fiercely trying to protect their loved ones from the pain they themselves have experienced as a teen (been there, done that scenario).

Communication between parents and teenagers comes to a screeching halt and parents yearn to know what is happening in their teenagers’ lives. Is it possible to break that silence during the teen years? Yes, by fostering true connection through authentic communication. In this way parents and teenagers truly see and hear each other in a meaningful way.

5 Strategies for creating more opportunities for communication – talking to, and not at, your teen

  1. Start with a clean slate – give yourself permission to wipe the slate clean and commit to making a conscious shift going forwards.
  2. Drop the expectations – by letting go of how and when you and your teenager communicate, you’ll be more likely to find peace with what is, instead of dwelling on what should be. Then you’ll open the door for new, healthier communication patterns to emerge.
  3. Respectful listening – teenagers crave being heard and not lectured. They don’t want their every experience turned into a “teachable moment”. This means tuning in to what they say and more importantly to what they are feeling. When you do respond, start with empathy and not answers.
  4. Stay calm – the ability to stay calm is important if you want the teenagers to come back to you so that you don’t ask yourself, “How did I miss that?” Resist the urge to jump in and instead thank your teenager for coming to share the information/experience with you. If ever you need to take action, do it in a non-threatening way.
  5. Share your stories – there is no quicker way to break down the barriers and give your teenagers a chance to see you for who you really are than to let them know about the challenges that you as parents went through as teens and how that experience had an impact on the person that they are today.

Take time to be vulnerable and share and the chances are that your teenager will see you in a different light.

Unfortunately, there are no navigational charts for making it through the rough waters of teen-hood. By following the above compass points, both parents and teenagers may make the trip just a little more navigable.