No one ever said parenting teenagers was easy. Being a parent of a child of any age is never easy, but the teen years present new challenges. One of the biggest challenges is communication. With some teens, you cannot get a word in. But with other teens, it seems like they hardly communicate at all without their phones. Here are 3 tips to promote effective communication with teens.
Curiosity Questions: Ask, Don’t Tell
How do you approach a difficult conversation with your teen? What do you do, for example, when your teen gets a bad grade or is making unhealthy choices? Instead of shouting or getting angry, ask curiosity questions. Curiosity questions elicit more substantial responses than yes or yes questions. They begin with “what” or “how”. Curiosity questions are designed to get your teen thinking and problem solving for himself, rather than you providing the answers. After all, you won’t be going to college with your child or moving in with him when he leaves home.
For example, saying “what can you do differently next time you study?” will lead to a better conversation than saying, “you need to study more”. However, be careful not to ask questions when you already know the answers. Instead of asking “what did you get on your paper” when you have already checked online, ask “what do you think happened” or “what do you think about the effort you put into the paper”. Here are a few more examples of curiosity questions:
- What were you trying to do?
- How were you feeling about what happened?
- What can you do differently next time?
- What ideas do you have about how to solve this?
If given the opportunity, many teens would gladly avoid talking with their families. Despite this, most teens still want to feel like they belong and their opinion counts. Establishing regular family meetings can create the time and expectation that everyone is included. For example, you can use this time to talk about what’s happening for the week ahead or to decide where the family will go on vacation. You can problem-solve together– brainstorming solutions as a family creates a greater sense of cohesion and connection. Family meetings are also a great opportunity to create new routines and expectations together, as well as understand children’s viewpoints and opinions.
Family meetings do not need to be overly long– 15-20 minutes is enough. All members, from the youngest to the oldest, should be included. For little ones, provide a quiet activity to keep them busy (coloring, Legos) when the discussion is over their heads. Each family member should be invited to participate and express their ideas or concerns. Both parents and children can add items they would like to discuss the agenda of a family meeting. Don’t forget to end on a high note with a fun game or perhaps sharing compliments.
Empathy: Connection before Correction
Sometimes teens do not know how to communicate negative feelings appropriately. Even though their verbal communication skills may be lacking, their actions make their feelings clear. The next time your teenager explodes over something small or immediately goes to their room and slams the door, try connecting before addressing the shouting and slammed door. Jane Nelsen, author of “Positive Discipline” suggests that “connection before correction” deescalates tense situations and promotes positive conversations.
Try to use empathy. For example, you could say “It seems like you’re really upset, let’s talk about is after you’ve calmed down”. It shows that you want to understand. Whereas, if you say “what have I told you about slamming the door!”, your teens will likely feel more defensive. Just listening when a teen wants to complain or rant can go a long way in creating a connection. Parents have a tendency to try to “save” their children or solve their child’s problem by telling them what to do. Instead of jumping straight to solving the problem, listen to teens and learn more about their viewpoint.
Positive Discipline at Wellview Counseling
Many of the tips and concepts above come from the “Positive Discipline” parenting model. I highly recommend Jane Nelsen’s books “Positive Discipline” and “Positive Discipline for Teens.” If you would like to learn more about communicating with teens, the Positive Discipline parenting approach, or have any questions please join us for our next Positive Discipline workshop on Friday, November 8 or 15. Feel free to reach out to via phone: 678-288-6221 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to support teens, parents, and families to create healthy relationships.
If you are looking for parenting support and would like to learn more about positive discipline and how to communicate more effectively with your children, our therapists are here to help! Please follow these simple steps to learn more about Positive Discipline Workshops at Wellview Counseling:
- Contact our Atlanta area counseling clinic,
- Attend our Positive Discipline Workshop,
- Begin communicating better with your kids!
Other Services offered at Wellview Counseling
In addition to parenting support, our Atlanta area counseling clinic also offers a wide variety of mental health services to help you achieve emotional wellness. Wellview Counseling offers child counseling and play therapy, teen counseling, individual counseling for anxiety and depression, family therapy, postpartum anxiety and depression treatment, chronic illness counseling, and trauma and PTSD treatment. If you are unable to come to our Atlanta, GA offices, Wellview Counseling also offers online counseling to Georgia residents.
About the Author
Emily is one of the caring therapists at Wellview Counseling. If you would like to connect with your teen, Emily would be glad to help.