Navigating adolescence can be an emotional and confusing ride for both
parents and child. As your child enters this stage, they become more independent
and push their boundaries often portraying the message, “I don’t
need you Mom and Dad.”
The truth is; however, they do need you; they need to feel loved and connected
so that they have a safe place to turn to when they have to face those
not-so-easy moments in life.
Healthy relationships with our kids are rooted in effective communication.
This will help you and your child feel happier, connected, and more confident
when those difficult conversations need to take place. Here are three
common barriers that often get in the way of communicating well with our teens.
Parents label behaviors, give advice, prescribe solutions, lecture, blame,
question, and have all the answers in hopes that their teen will absorb
what they need and apply it to their own lives. While the intention is
good, the message received is very different. Teens feel as if they have
not been heard, understood, or that their perspective doesn’t matter.
This only cause’s anger, diminishes self-esteem, and drives an unwanted
wedge between parent and child.
Effective communication is more about listening, less about talking. Listen
first to understand what they are saying and then reflect back to them
what you are hearing them say. Once the tone of the conversation is set,
simply ask open-ended questions, and then ask for permission when wanting
to offer advice. This lets your teen know that you are here for them,
you respect them, and you are willing to help if they need or want it.
Over or Underreacting
Overreacting, even when well-intentioned, may cause adolescent children
distress and unwarranted guilt. Overreactions may communicate to the teen
that they cannot count on their parents for help to prevent such reactions
in the future.
Parents are busy. They may unconsciously or unintentionally withdraw or
disconnect from what teens are trying to communicate. Underreactions minimize
what the teen may feel is a major issue. In addition, it is easy to say,
“there’s no need to get so upset,” or “just get
over it,” which portrays that the teen’s feelings are not
valid and they are not understood.
Timing can make or break your conversation. Sometimes it is better to take
a break, gather your thoughts and calm down before approaching your teen
about the issue at hand. This will help minimize overreactions and ensure
that both parties can be present during the conversation. Open up to compromise
and show understanding by validating your teen’s point of view so
they know they are being heard.
Your facial expressions, posture, gestures and eye contact are loaded with
cues that can make or break a conversation. If you’re planning on
what to say next, looking at your phone, or if your attention is drifting
away from your teen, you could be sending them damaging and confusing ideas.
Minimize distractions by putting down your phone and turning off the TV.
Stay attentive and show genuine interest in what your teen is saying.
Pay attention to the non-verbal messages your body is sending out; it’s
helpful to uncross your arms, look at your teen in the eye, and make sure
your tone of voice is steady and respectful.
Many parents are guilty of falling into these traps as communication does
not come naturally or easily to most. For more information
www.helpguide.org has an abundance of communication-related articles that can be used to
help deepen your connection to your teen and other relationships in your life.
Karissa Morris is a Provisional Professional Counselor (PPC) in the Campbell County Medical Group
Kid Clinic. The Kid Clinic is a school-based pediatric clinic in Gillette, Wyoming.
The medical clinic serves children ages 2 weeks to 18 years old; and counseling
services for children 4 years old to 21 years old. It is located at 800
Butler Spaeth Rd., across from
St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Gillette, Wyoming. The Kid Clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 am-5
pm. For more information, call 307-688-8700 or visit
www.cchwyo.org/kidclinic. The Kid Clinic is a collaborative effort between Campbell County Health and
Campbell County School District.