Communication with Your Teen

The dynamic relationship you share with your daughter has altered since she was a young child. Changing relationships are inevitable, but this shift doesn’t have to be negative. However, it might be that the communication between you and your teen has become stunted over the years. When your anger, confusion, or frustration with your teen gets the better of you, it may be a struggle to keep positive communication at the forefront of your relationship. 

This is especially the case if you feel like your child, who was once outgoing and friendly, has become withdrawn, depressed, or aggressive in their young adulthood. It may even feel like your child is actively displaying every negative emotion they have, throwing those emotions at you every time you try to reach out or give them support. The important thing to remember is to never give up and to never place blame on your teen.

Sometimes parents don’t realize when their style of communication is becoming more of a hindrance to the relationship with their teen versus a concrete way to build upon the relationship. Is your child not feeling heard? Are you talking “over” your teen, without meaning to? If you can honestly answer yes to either question above, it’s time to change the way you communicate, and the way you decide to listen. 

Actively Listening

Look back to a time in your life where you felt truly heard. What made you feel understood at that moment? Did that person empathize with you or provide support? Now think back on a moment that you felt ignored, belittled, or misunderstood. Can you feel the difference? As a child, who in your life did you feel as though you could talk to genuinely? Hopefully, you had someone in your adolescence who just choose to listen wholeheartedly to the issue at hand. Did you have someone in your life who brought to you a sense of calm, and possibly made you feel less alone? Looking back, that person could have been an older family member, a parent, a friend, or God Himself. 

Regardless of who is was for you, that person who listened to your troubles was a blessing that you may have overlooked at the time. When you compare the moments when you “felt heard” to those that made you feel the exact opposite, you can begin to understand what your child is feeling at this moment in her life. When it comes down to the basic want to be seen and heard, your child’s needs don’t stray too far from your own. What do we all need?

  • Someone who will choose not to interject when it isn’t necessary
  • Someone who won’t say “I told you so”
  • Someone who shows patience and kindness
  • Someone who is engaged in the conversation
  • A listener who is caring, able to empathize, and is able to compromise 

Where Can You Start?

Ultimately, what your teen needs during everyday conversations as well a the tougher ones, is a parent who will actively listen. As a parent, it’s your job to provide feedback, advice, and validation. It can be easy enough for a parent to get stuck in the loop of unintentional judgment or fall back into a passive listening role. Of course, it’s difficult to suddenly change the way you speak to your teen, but to start, there is a basic strategy to get you through difficult communication. 

  • Stay calm and patient. Show them the appropriate verbal and nonverbal way to exist within a conversation. Be an appropriate “mirror” for them.
  • Always choose empathy. Try to see any issue from your daughter’s perspective, as difficult as that may be. This means not completely dismissing your child’s feelings just because they seem out of place to you as an adult. Put yourself back in her shoes. 
  • Ask her questions. Why does she feel what she’s feeling? As deeper questions to get to the root of the issue. Pay attention to the way your child is responding. Of course, asking open-ended questions is important, but remember that your teen might not respond in the most appropriate way. She is, at the center of it all, a young person without the same impulse control as an adult. Be patient and thoughtful with your questions and accepting of her answers.

Having difficulty speaking with your teenager, or is she exhibiting behaviors that are disruptive or disturbing to your family and household? We’ll discuss family therapy, connecting with your teen, and recognizing when you need to take other actions for her health.