Understanding and talking to teenagers.

P1000798Is your teenage child moody, secretive and morose? Spending more time with friends, or on their own in their room, refusing to talk to you, and finding you a complete embarrassment?

This is quite normal! As children develop and reach their teens, huge developmental changes occur – physical, mental and emotional. As they grow up, children will begin to separate from us in order to ‘fledge’ as an independent adult.

Therefore it’s only natural that your teenager will want to be more independent and more private, and to spend more time with friends who become a significant presence and influence in their lives.

However, whilst they are living in your home and as part of your family, keeping the channels of communication open is crucial to a healthy parent-child relationship.

So how can you communicate with a reluctant teenager?

  • Choose the right moment – your child will be more receptive during the good moments. Avoid times of high emotion, such as after an argument. Wait until you are both feeling calmer, and arrange and agree on a good time to talk. Talking on a car journey or walk can be very effective.
  • Plan what you would like to say and what you would like to achieve from the conversation. And be realistic.
  • Listen – a really good tip for speaking with teens is not to ask ‘what is the matter with you?’ This can imply that they have done something wrong and you are making a judgement that something is wrong with them. Instead, ask them ‘what has happened?’ This is judgement free and opens the gate for them to talk – and you to listen.
  • Don’t interrupt – to make this easier you could agree that you take it in turns to speak and you aren’t allowed to speak until the other has completed what they want to say.
  • Respect what they tell you – don’t laugh off or belittle what they tell you. Something that seems insignificant or trivial to an adult can be really important in a teen’s life. And if they tell you something in confidence, then respect their trust in you and don’t pass those confidences on. If you want to share with the child’s other parent, ask permission to do this.
  • Don’t go off on one! Stay calm, no matter how you feel. If you feel your emotions rising, ask for a time-out and do something to calm you down before you resume your dialogue.
  • Accept when you are wrong. Sorry is not the hardest word!

For more information on teenage behaviour try this book- Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed. Nicola Morgan.

A Canadian organisation has published a handy downloadable leaflet ‘Straight Talk About Teens’ – it’s full of really useful information and advice. Although some of the information is specific to Canada (for instance on education), it is definitely worth a look.

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