Think about the last conversation you had with your teen. Did she leave feeling understood? Validated? Closer to you? How you communicate with your teen correlates to the quality and depth of your connection with each other.
Good communication, and a strong parent-teen connection, starts with getting to know your teen. This requires deep listening and intentional focus. Start noticing the way in which she responds to life and begin to wonder, what is it like for her? Be curious and invite conversations with gentle, open-ended questions (but not too many). Listen to her with an open mind and open heart. Reserve judgment and criticism. Instead, validate what she shares. A simple nod or saying, “that makes sense” translates to your teen as you “get it.”
As your teen moves towards more independence, find ways to adjust your parenting. A teen’s needs are different from those of a child and she needs a different kind of parent to help her work through her needs.
The following parenting dos and don’ts will foster open communication and a strong connection. They will also support her in developing self-esteem and learning how to effectively communicate with others.
- Validate your teen’s point of view. Say: I see what you are saying. I’d like to share my perspective.
- Have an open mind. Say: Help me understand what is going on for you.
- Ask constructive WHAT questions. Say: What else could be going on here? What support do you need? What do you think are your best next steps?
- Respond with the end in mind. Always consider what is the most important thing for your teen to learn. Consider how you parent her toward that desired outcome.
- Be clear with boundaries and show you understand. Say: It is not OK to talk to me that way. Clearly, you’re upset and I’m sure there is a good reason why. I want to understand what is going on and I will wait until you’re ready to have that conversation in a calm, respectful way.
- Focus on and praise what she is doing right.
- Take her rebellion or defiance personally. It is not intentional. Teens are learning how to process difficult emotions and communicate their feelings and needs. Their push-back is part of how they develop assertiveness and self-advocacy skills.
- Overreact. Your reaction is a powerful teacher and shows your teen how to handle triggering experiences. If you fly off the handle and yell at her, you’re teaching her how to do the same. By showing her how you can gain a sense of calm despite feeling triggered, you set a powerful example for how she can practice emotional control.
- Dwell on the past. Don’t bring up past disagreements, wrongdoings, mistakes, etc again, especially in future arguments.
- Jump to conclusions. Instead, be curious about your teen’s point of view.
- Assume your teen is asking for your advice. Instead ask, Would you like my advice? Would you like to know what I think you could do? If your teen says “no” then allow her more time and let her know you will be happy to help when she’s ready.
- Lecture or give constant reminders. Your teen will definitely shut down if you launch into a lecture or repeatedly remind her to do something.
- Ask a lot of questions. It’s natural to want to know what is going on for your teen but asking a lot of questions feels like an invasion to teens. Try to create space so your teen will share without feeling pressured.
- Tell your friends! This is especially important. If your teen feels you will tell your friends (who are likely the parents of her friends), she will hold back and trust will erode.
- Talk about your teen years and how you handled things. Even if you went through the same experience, your teen is unlikely to see the parallels.
A strong connection with your teen builds her self-esteem and confidence. It allows her to develop assertiveness skills, trust in herself, and trust in you. When she feels heard and understood, she will turn to you for guidance and answers to her questions. She will also learn how to listen and understand you, leading to a more respectful and peaceful relationship.
Parent coaching can help you maintain a healthy connection with your teen and get through to her in a way that she respects and responds to. Schedule a free discovery call to learn more.