by Chris Taylor, MFT, Author “Back to Basics”
As any parent of a teen will tell you, they are not very forthcoming with information. Ask any teenager how their day went, and many times you will hear “fine,” “good,” or simply “ok” as a response. This can be frustrating when all a parent really wants is a close relationship with their teen to have a better understanding of their decision making process and to have peace of mind that they or actually, “fine.” In this article you will learn 3 major communication strategies that will get your teen to not only respond with more than one-word answers, but to seek out meaningful conversations on their own.
Praise Them: If we do not feel accepted and appreciated by someone we are less likely to desire a close relationship. Feeling misunderstood, judged or having our ideas invalidated are all ways to drive disconnect in relationships. Avoid these traps by always taking the time to acknowledge positive attributes and choices that your teen is making. They will feel loved and appreciated and more open to sharing.
Remain Curious: Most people love that moment when they share something new or unique about something that they are knowledgeable about. In other words, people love to feel like an expert. Unfortunately most parents are quick to jump in with lines like “I was a teenager once, so….” or as I describe it, the kiss of death. The truth is, teens on today’s world are facing pressures and being exposed to things that parents have no experience with. Instead of acting like you know, ask your teen what they are facing, be direct and specific with questions. Avoid how was your day, and ask if they felt pressured to do something that made them uncomfortable this week, or what was the hardest emotion they felt. Put them in the role of being the expert of themselves and they will begin to open up and share.
Allow For Negotiation: Do not be the my way or the highway parent. Explore your teen’s needs and their rational for why they want something. Try to look at the need they are trying to meet. By doing this teens will see their parents as being reasonable in their expectations and valuing their unique desires. This will help teens to build deeper trust and take risks in communication. Everyone needs to have some “skin in the game,” so give your teen the opening to participate in meaningful dialogue by allowing for negotiation.
Implementing these 3 major strategies will move your teen from withdrawn to engaged. Conversations will move from meaningless to meaningful and you will have the peace of mind that all your years of hard work have paid off because your teen is an effective communicator, willing to express their ideas, and not afraid to receive constructive feedback.