When you’re attempting to communicate with your teen, do you often feel like you are just talking to a brick wall?
Instead of having a conversation, are your words met with a grunt or stony silence?
When that happens, it can be very frustrating and lead to fights or arguments that no one really wins.
However, there are ways that you can communicate more effectively with your teenage child.
Consider these four keys that might help you unlock a door through that wall and connect with your child in a more meaningful way.
Key #1: Use a softer approach
First, consider how you are expressing yourself to your teen. Are you talking in a calm, reasonable, and approachable way? Or do you raise your voice, talk sternly, and shut your teen down?
If you’re doing more of the latter, it’s no wonder your teen is shutting down. No one responds well to being spoken to in that way.
You can fix this problem by being honest with yourself about how you are communicating. Try changing your approach, lowering the volume and talking more calmly. Your teen is likely to respond in a similar, calmer, way, although it might take some time for them to realise you have changed your approach for good.
Key #2: Don’t let your emotions get the better of you
It can be easy to let your emotions get the better of you. And especially so if you are frustrated by your teen’s behaviour.
For example, your teen keeps coming home late even after repeated reminders about curfew. When you try to address the problem with them, you meet with resistance. As a result, you become frustrated and angry, and they become closed and defensive as a result. However, these responses only serve to drive a wedge between the two of you.
If you are feeling strong emotions, take a moment to address those issues before having the conversation.
Some ideas to calm yourself include:
- Find a quiet place
- Do something physical, such as going for a brisk walk
- Use breathing exercises to calm down
- Say something reassuring to turn your focus away from the negative feelings
Key #3: Avoid only talking when something is wrong
If you are only talking to your teen when something is wrong, they will pick up on that. They learn that when you are speaking to them, it’s because they are in trouble. Of course, this sends the wrong message and contributes to creating distance between you, rather than building closeness.
That’s why it’s so important to have conversations when everything is okay as well. You know your child best. What are their interests and passions? Try to make the conversation more than, “How was school today?” The more you show genuine interest in them and their lives, the more they are likely to involve you and communicate with you.
Key #4: Spend time together
Along with having regular conversations, spend time with your teen. Try to make the time about things that they enjoy doing rather than something you might want to do.
For instance, one idea is attending a sporting event together. Other ideas include:
- Playing board games
- Walking the family dog
- Doing chores together
- Taking a drive together
Additionally, you can spend time together by sharing a meal. Whether it’s eating out or a meal cooked at home, eating together is a great way to share both your time and conversation.
Even better, have your child help with preparing the meal! It could be an old family recipe or something new. The point is that you are spending time with one another, without an agenda.
What if my teen still won’t communicate?
If you have tried these ideas and are still hitting the brick wall, consider getting professional help. It can be very helpful to talk with a therapist familiar with family issues. You might want to come with your teen or on your own. Either is possible, and both have benefits. It might also be possible to have a blend of individual and joint sessions.
As mentioned above, the process of communicating with your teen can be frustrating. Talking those frustrations through with your therapist can help you avoid venting them to your teen.
No parent likes to feel like they are talking to a wall. It is frustrating to experience, but there are solutions to the problem. Reflect on how you communicate and make appropriate changes. Also, make an effort to spend quality time with your teen and find common ground.
You might be surprised to find that your teen actually has quite a lot to say.