Pocket Guide for Keeping Lines of Communication Open with Teens
Spoiler alert: Don’t wait to talk to your teen until you’re worried about them.
Great parenting strategies for the teenage years almost always start with healthy communication.
When things get tough, one of the best gifts you can give your teen is a listening ear and a reassuring comment every now and then. This validates whatever complex emotion they are feeling and shows that you have confidence in their ability to work through challenges on their own.
But it’s all too easy to forget that communication isn’t usually automatic. Opportunities for sharing can become few and far between as teens grow more independent. Here are five reminders to help you and your teen stay on the same page:
Try a Daily Dose
Shoot for a daily check-in to invite conversation. Trust your gut and mix it up with open-ended questions, confidence-boosting compliments, and specific questions. Here are some examples:
Open ended: “How are you feeling today?”
Compliment: “Way to go on the science test – I know you spent a lot of time studying.”
Specific: “What is your friend Jeremy like?”
Put. Down. Your. Phone. Be mindful about when it’s time to dedicate your full attention to your teen. Listen carefully and resist the urge to answer right away. This creates the space for your teen to open up.
Suppress the Superhero
Rather than jumping in with a solution or opinion, empathize and help name their emotion. For example, try something like, “Yeah, that does sound frustrating.” Suggest doing something together, like go for a hike or watch a movie, where they are not forced to elaborate.
Be ready with a short explanation to back up rules that limit their independence such as curfews. Allow your teen to hear your authentic perspective and build their own case if they want to convince you to change your mind.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Don’t force it if your teen is obviously pushing for alone time, throwing a tantrum, or acting rude. Give your teen a chance to decompress or enlist peers for advice.
… and then check-in the next day.
Putting these tips into practice may not be easy depending on your family’s unique situation. Be patient; start slow; start early. When more serious issues creep up, your teen will know they can come to you for help.
UpStreet is a mental wellness program that offers free drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support, and support groups for teens ages 12-22. UpStreet aims to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health support, to avoid escalation of symptoms to a crisis stage, and enhance teens’ quality of life. Reach out to an UpStreet team member now using the chat bot located at the bottom of the page.