Communication is of the utmost importance in every relationship, including your relationship with your teenager. It can be difficult to keep the lines of communication, however, especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Talking with teens about subjects like romantic relationships, peer pressure, and future plans such as college and careers can be challenging.
It’s important to discuss conflict with teenagers, as well as constructive strategies for conflict resolution. Having regular conversations with your teenager will benefit you both in countless ways, including making your teen feel supported and cared for, and giving you valuable insight into how your teen thinks and feels about the situations they’re dealing with.
How to Handle Teenage Relationships:
Teenage relationship problems come in many shapes and sizes: conflicts with friends or teachers, unrequited crushes, romantic relationships, and even your teen’s relationship with themselves. It’s important to be sensitive to your teen’s stake in each of these very different types of relationships. For instance, you may think it makes sense for your teen to distance themselves from friends who put them down, but your teen may not be ready to let go of that friendship – and attempting to force their hand may cause more harm than good.
Supporting your teen as they navigate through the different types of teenage relationships is crucial, but it can be a challenge to understand where your teen is mentally and emotionally. Remember, your teen (and the others they interact with) do not have your years of experience and wisdom! Even very mature teens may balk at what they perceive as interference in their affairs, or at well-meaning advice that comes across as “telling them what to do”. Fortunately, we have some tips that will help you have productive, positive conversations with your teen.
Tips for Having Difficult Conversations with Your Teen:
Prepare Topics Ahead of Time – Have you ever asked your teen a question and gotten a one-word answer, or maybe even just a grunt in response? Despite your best intentions, your teen may be unwilling to broach a particular topic, and if you don’t have any other options ready, the conversation may end there.
Stay Calm and Listen to Your Teen:
There may be times when your teen wants or needs to talk about something that won’t make you happy. Maybe they made a bad decision and need help dealing with the consequences, or maybe someone did or said something to them that will make you angry. If you fly off the handle, it may deter your teen from coming to you with similar issues in the future, so make sure to maintain your cool and listen to the full story.
Avoid Being Critical or Judgmental:
Loving your child means that you are bound to feel very strongly about the issues that affect them and want only the best outcomes for them, but it’s important to avoid coming across as critical or judgmental. Your teen may hesitate to bring up certain subjects – or friends, crushes, etc. – if they are worried you won’t approve. Ask how your teen feels before making assumptions or jumping to conclusions about the situation.
Don’t Lecture, Listen:
You’ve been a teenager, and you may have even made the mistakes you can see your teen hurtling toward. We know it feels almost impossible to bite your tongue, but if you can manage it, don’t lecture – listen. Especially if your teen makes a mistake, it’s more constructive to hear them out and work on a resolution together than it is to read them the riot act.
Support and Advice:
Just because you can’t lecture doesn’t mean you can’t provide support and advice when your teen is in need. Ask, “May I offer some advice?” or say, “If I was in this situation, I would do X” and be sure to explain how the course of action you recommend will achieve the desired outcome. Be willing to listen if your teen pushes back; there may be additional context you’re missing.
Encourage Conversation Through Appreciation:
Let your teen know that you appreciate them opening up and sharing with you. Never let them feel like they’re burdening you with their problems or “negative” emotions.
My Teenager Doesn’t Want to Talk:
What if, despite your best efforts, your teen will not engage with you? Instead of opening with the hard-hitting questions, try loosening them up with some light, fun questions, such as:
- Describe your perfect day
- If you knew that you wouldn’t fail, what would you do as a grown-up?
- If you could meet anyone, who would it be and what would you ask them?
- What is your favorite memory from your childhood?
- What is your favorite movie character and which traits do you like?
These questions can provide more insight into your teen’s thoughts and feelings than you may realize at first. For example, the elements of their perfect day can tell you which activities and people bring them the most joy. The favorite memory from their childhood can tell you what events or actions had the greatest and most lasting impact, and inform you of the way you should move forward.
If your teen is resolute about maintaining their silence, don’t push them! Let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready, but don’t attempt to drag information out of them. Many times, teens need space to process their thoughts and feelings before they can communicate them clearly to others.
Successful Learning Without Barriers:
Being able to communicate effectively with your teen is important when it comes to removing barriers to learning. If your teen is struggling in a particular subject area, there could be many different factors involved (missing foundational information, lack of interest in the topic, conflict with the teacher, etc.) and you will have a much harder time finding a solution if you can’t get all of the information you need to understand the full scope of the situation.
Practicing open, honest, and constructive communication at home can also help your teen to communicate at school with friends, partners, teachers, coaches, etc. When you demonstrate active listening without interruption or judgment, you show your teen how to be a respectful listener to others – a skill that goes a long way in fostering strong, positive relationships.
At La Jolla LearningWorks, we understand the importance of communication with students and their families. Our goal is to support the relationship you have with your teen. We’ve also committed to the best practices in this blog such as listening, learning the full story and not making a student feel ashamed of their ability in school. If your student needs academic support in a personalized way contact us to learn more.