Communicate with your teen

Talk to Teenagers

If you are a parent to a teenager than you have probably been there, you said something and got a blank stare saying, ‘are you for real’, but no words come out! Or you ask them politely to do something, get no response and it does not get done. Or they do respond with a solitary word ‘later’, ‘what’!! Maybe you even have them coming to you with personal issues and all you want to do is help but the response you get back is ‘you really don’t get it’ or ‘forget about it, you never listen’ etc. You just feel that you never get it right. 

Well, it is actually not that hard to talk to them and here is the magical trick that works every time once you get the hang of using it. But I am not going to say that this will be easy. It will take a lot of patience and practise from your side. I recommend that you start by watching the video ‘Managing your emotions’ here

Become a SOLE Listener:

  • Squarely face your teen, make eye contact if possible, show them that you are focused and ready to communicate and that you are taking what they have to say seriously. Try not to multi task, leave the phone, email and other chores. This really help connect with your teen when they see and feel that you are taking your precious time to talk to them. Facing your teen also send a signal that you are not afraid of them, even though we might sometimes be…
  • Open your posture – show them you are present. I have met so many parents who are afraid of their teen’s reactions to what they have to say or in case the say the wrong thing. But when your body is sending a signal that you are ok, relaxed and in control of self then your teen is more likely to listen to you, respect you and cooperate. CLICK here to read ‘act with confidence and your teen will respect you’.
  • Lean towards the speaker. Show them that you care. As you can see by now, your body language is so important, it is actually 80% of your communication. Leaning forward show that you are trying to connect, willing to connect even though the conversation is hard or challenging, you are still with them, here for them. 
  • Empathy instead of sympathy. Do not involve your emotions but only try to understand them. No matter what the conversation is about keep it clean and empathic. If teen is upset about something you need to first check in with your own emotions and separate them from theirs. It really hurts to hear that our child is not happy and it can bring out deep emotions in us that might make us say and do the wrong thing or go into fixing mode, when all they need right now is for you to be a SOLE listener. Try to use the tool ‘I hear, I understand and accept‘: ‘I can HEAR that you are really angry right now, and I understand that it made you upset, angry or confused and that is ok (accept) to feel that way when XX’. 

Whatever your teen says, you need to come from a place of LISTENING, not just hearing what they say but listening to understand what they are trying to say. Sometimes the right answer is NOTHING, just listening.

More tips to show that you ARE listening : 

  • To show you ARE listening try to simply repeat back what they have said: ‘so you are not invited to that party’ or ‘wow, I can hear you are very upset’ or ‘what you said is XYZ’. or ‘I get it that you are angry that you have to do the chores now’…
  • Less is more: Often when we are getting frustrated we go into word over flow. The danger is that we quickly loose their attention or we come across as ‘telling them, lecturing’ or trying to convince them of what we are saying that can appear unconvincing. So try to say as little as possible and use the above listening tips. If you have to ‘tell them something’, make it SIMPLE, SHORT and CLEAR and just repeat it: I know you don’t want to take out the bin, but as agreed it is your job after dinner’… STOP there..

Remember that listening, understanding and accepting is not the same as agreeing, sometimes it is OK to say: I listen, I understand and I accept but I don’t agree with what you said.

If you practise and follow these steps you will find that over time your teen will open up to you, respect you and be more respectful towards your requests. Plus you will feel so much better when you are in control of self and can feel proud afterwards. 

CLICK here for ‘parenting your teen’ 

Best wishes,
Mette Theilmann – part of the Parenting Community team