Talking with a teenager can be hard or even impossible. What does an adult know? Even though we were once teenagers, adults often feel so disconnected that we don’t know what to say or how to act around teenagers. This is because adolescence is one of the hardest phases of growth and maturity.
Teenagers face so many challenges today. They deal with more peer pressure and bullying than ever before. Negative influence from television and social media make it worse. Without your guidance, your teen could make a decision for immediate gratification with consequences that last a lifetime. Knowing that someone is in their corner makes a difference. Here are five tips to help you support the adolescents in your life.
Empathizing instead of judging will help your teen open up to you rather than shut you out. Saying, “When I was your age,” just isn’t going to cut it because, in all honesty, times have changed. Show the teen that you understand and acknowledge the obstacles that she faces.
If the adolescent has misbehaved, allow her or him to explain rather than getting angry. You shouldn’t feel like being understanding is agreeing; instead, be unbiased until all the facts are presented.
Listening–and being an active listener–is a big part of communication. When we listen, adolescents begin to feel as though they (and their opinions) matter. Your teen can tell that you are listening and will be more likely to answer your questions, ask you questions, or have important discussions with you.
Let’s face it: teenagers have questions and we want to be the one to give them the answers. If we don’t give them the answers, they will search for answers elsewhere–and they could get the wrong one.
Communication cannot and should not start when something negative is happening. When we are consistent, we are in a better position to be proactive and not reactive. Daily check-ins are a great way to be consistent; simply asking, “how was your day?” opens up discussion. That way, we are more aware of what is going on and may even be able to stop the teen from making a mistake.
Not all communication is verbal. Interacting with the teen on a daily basis builds communication. Get involved in the activities they enjoy: a day at the mall, movies, bowling, a sports game. Participating in these activities lets you see your teen in his “element.”
If your teen is withdrawn during these interactions, it could be due to something else that they are not yet comfortable addressing. You don’t have to force it, but always reassure them that you are there for them.
Sometimes you have to compromise. Compromising takes some trust, but if your adolescent has not done anything to jeopardize your trust, let her make some choices. As our adolescents get older, we want to know that they have learned something from what has been taught. Compromising lets them explore and use their own judgment. You can start with the small things and work your way up.
Communication is not just practiced; it is taught. The way you communicate with adolescents teaches them how to communicate with others. A lack of communication can result in unwanted teen pregnancies, connection with the wrong peers, and getting the inappropriate answer to life-changing decisions. Do what you can for your teen by keeping a dialogue open, staying nonjudgmental, and always providing a listening ear.