By Chris Taylor, MFT, Author "Back to Basics"
If you are a parent who struggles to connect with your teen then this article is for you. Your teen is in need of your assistance to overcome the difficulties they come across in day-to-day life. Your teen is going through a series of mental and physical changes in their life. As a result, they can’t effectively navigate the stressors of life without the support of their parents.
However, it’s not easy to provide the help because teens don’t tend to communicate often or with any depth of disclosure. Therefore, it is left to parents to take the necessary steps to connect with their teens. Here are 3 effective tips to connect with your teens.
1. Communicate by asking questions. Asking questions is the best and most powerful method available to connect with your teen. When someone approaches you and asks about your opinion, you feel valued. Teens also feel valued when they are asked their opinions. However, you need to be careful to ask the questions in a non-judgmental way to establish a strong connection.
You should ask your teen questions that are meaningful to them, and have the goal of making them feel they are an expert. This way they will immediately feel respected and cared for. When you are providing space for your teen to give answers, you should never challenge their opinions. Responding to a teen’s disclosure with judgment, or dismissing their ideas will shut them down instantly. And never respond with “I was a teenager once too.” The reality is that times have changed, so you really don’t understand.
As a wise parent, you should keep in mind that anything can take place in today’s world. Therefore, you shouldn’t blame your teen for things that are not going in a positive direction, as there are many pressures they are facing that affects their judgment. When you are asking questions, you should stay quiet until you hear the complete answer. If you figure out there’s something wrong, you should explain it calmly and set appropriate limits. You should never respond to your teen’s answers with disappointment and anger. If you do, you will find it difficult to keep the connection that you have established with your teen.
By asking questions, you will also get the opportunity to empower your teens. You can teach your teen how to apply the values that you have taught them. Moreover, the questions you ask should encourage your teen to ask questions of you as well. Then you will be providing an ideal atmosphere for the teen to overcome the difficulties they are going through.
2. Always maintain a respectful attitude. When you are trying to connect with your teen, it is important to maintain a respectful attitude. This will be reflected in your demeanor and tone. When we respect the person we are communicating with, we take action to listen and respond with natural curiosity. Your teen will respond in-kind with their respect towards you. In this environment constructive dialogue is al but guaranteed.
There are instances, where conversations with your teen will transform into heated arguments. Make sure that there is an opportunity to hug each other at the end of every heated argument. Being respectful doesn’t mean how right you are as a person. It is all about changing your attitude, in order to establish a stronger connection with your teen. When you follow the right approach when talking to your teen, you will be able to extract more information within a shorter period of time. It will also reduce any arguing or yelling that may occur. That is all you need at the end of the day. This will encourage the teen to maintain positive connection with you moving forward. Now, you will find it easy to connect to your teen in future.
3. Speak less and listen more. This is another effective method to connect with your teen. However, it is important for you to have a clear understanding about the difference between simply not talking and actually listening. It is about asking appropriate questions of the teen and providing them with enough time and space to complete the answers.
When you ask your teen a question, do not interrupt, or they will respond based on anger or frustration. Listening means waiting until your teen has fully answered the question before you respond. As with the tips above, this will make your teen feel validated and respected and more likely to engage in meaningful conversation.
In case you cannot get a specific answer from your teen, it means that he/she does not have an answer to give you. In these situations you should not pressure the teen unnecessarily. You should listen to what the teen has to say. Then your teen will feel that their parents listen to them and genuinely care about what they have to say. As a result, your relationship with your teen will strengthen.