Communication Skills for Parents of Teens
Communicating with a teen can be a problem for many parents. You might feel like you don't speak his language or that he doesn't understand you. There are ways to help fight this feeling and have adequate and even meaningful discussions.
It may surprise you to see that listening is listed first. But it is the most important skill you can possess when talking to your teenaged son, or anyone for that matter. Parents not listening is one of the biggest complaints made by teens when it comes to talking to their parents and other adults.
Be mindful of your body language. If you assume a posture that says, “I'm not listening” or “I'm angry,” your son will shut you out. Look at your son, tilting your head slightly. Nod at the appropriate points. Show him you are really listening.
There are a few simple tricks to learn about listening. The first is simply to give your child your full attention. This may mean stopping what you're doing to provide him that attention. You should also look at your son while he is speaking to you and when you are speaking to him. Eye contact is respectful and shows you are paying attention.
While he speaks, actually listen to what your son is saying. Many times parents have a problem because they either interrupt or plan what they will say next instead of truly listening. When your son is finished talking, pause to reflect on what he said. Then you should restate what he has said and ask if you understood. Allow your son to correct anything you misunderstood.
Listening is an active skill. You need to be there with your son, interpreting everything that goes into his conversation. Note how he sits, what his body language says, what words he chooses, and what tone he uses. Remember to refrain from judgment.
Feeling misunderstood is a universal theme of being a teenager. The problem is that when you're the parent of a teen, you want him to hear and understand what you are saying.
Most teens prefer to talk to their mothers about tough issues. Try to feel your son out to see which parent he is more responsive to, but remember to present a united front in terms of your message to him.
No matter what you're doing, make a list and check it twice to ensure you are giving your son the correct information and he understands it. Writing gives him a chance to slow down to read instructions and ask questions before starting. If he forgets a step, he has a backup plan in the written document.
To-do lists can make great contracts for dealing with some tougher issues. You might make a long-term agreement over grades. If he gets X grades for Y period of time, then you will reward him with Z. Be sure you both sign and date it.