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Keeping Communication Open With Your Teen

If you're the parent of a teenager, you've probably noticed some major behavioral changes over the past few years. Although these behaviors are normal for adolescence, it's still necessary to keep the communication flowing between the two of you.

As kids enter their teens, they start spending more time alone in their rooms or out with friends. Maybe your teen also seems less interested in hanging out with you and more interested in listening to music or talking on the phone. Obviously, they want to communicate, but they're just not always excited to do it with you.

The communication methods or tips that work with one teen might not work as well with another. To keep conversations flowing with your teen, try some of the methods listed below to see which ones help you the most.

1. Rather than doing the talking, focus on listening. Professional therapists have learned that many teen clients report feeling like their parents talk "at" them and rarely listen to what their kids have to say.

  • Because some parents become disappointed about teens' withdrawal from the family, they might tend to do all the talking or even become a little "preachy" in their communication.

  • If you can de-focus from what you want to say and focus instead on listening, your teen will be more encouraged to communicate with you.

2. Show interests in your teen's music and books. Even though it most likely isn't your choice of tunes or literature, your teen's passions are ways to catch a glimpse into what's going on with him or her.

  • When she's talking about songs, her favorite performers, books, or magazines, use the discussion as a springboard to keep her communicating with you. You'll be surprised with what you learn when you demonstrate that you want to know more about what she loves.

3. Take advantage of time spent in the car with your teen. Many parents transport their adolescents to and from school every day during the school year. When it's just the two of you in the car, consider it an opportunity to listen and have a meaningful exchange.

4. Carve out time each day to communicate. Avoid allowing the business of everyday life to prevent you from talking with your adolescent. Sometimes, real life takes over and precious time with your teen is difficult to come by. However, make it a point each day to find the time to touch base.

5. Avoid dishing out punishment for info gained during conversations with your teen. Take care to avoid giving negative consequences resulting from a discussion with your adolescent.

  • You can surely understand the reasoning behind this strategy - if the teen is punished whenever they open up to you, they'll avoid talking with you in the future.

6. Keep teens involved by allowing them choices. Hopefully, you've worked hard so far in keeping all family members interested and participating in fun activities together, well before your kids moved into the teen years.

  • If so, use that momentum to encourage your teen to continue to make choices for family get-togethers and activities. Let your teen decide what you'll have to eat at a cookout or special get-together.

  • Enlist your teen to help you plan Dad's or Mom's birthday dinner. Allow them to choose the movie for Family Movie Night.

  • Teens that have choices at home and are praised for their involvement are less likely to rebel and may spend more time with family.

7. Have fun together. Remember to joke and laugh with your teen. After all, you were a teen once and can hopefully recall what it felt like.

  • Use your adolescent experience as fodder for funny stories and bonding with your teen. They'll most likely appreciate hearing your own stories about adolescence if they're told in the spirit of openness, fun, sharing, and love.

As a parent, you have the responsibility to stay connected with your adolescent. Practice these methods to encourage open communication between you and your teen. You'll be pleased at the responses you get.


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