How to Communicate With Your Teen

By Dave Lyke, MA, MDiv, LCPC

Good communication within the family is the instrument by which mutual trust and responsibility are established. When parents and teens are able to communicate effectively, conflict resolution and mutual decision-making become easier. In order for parents to communicate clearly, they need to be able to express their own thoughts accurately and feelings appropriately as well as listen to their teen’s thinking. Adolescents more than ever need someone who can listen and reflect his/her sense of a developing personality. They need someone who can help describe and empathize with them more than judge their opinions and feelings. In order to achieve effective communication with your child, here are some helpful suggestions towards a more active/responsive communication style with your teen:

Talk so that your teen will listen

Avoid threatening, preaching, blaming, analyzing, pacifying, probing, and avoidance responses that facilitate your teen’s sense of feeling judged and devalued.

Show respect to your teen who is developing an independent personality and forming a unique identity in relationship to you and others in their world.

Be aware of the tone of your voice and the place and circumstances of your conversation.

Do not feel you must impose consequences immediately; give your consequences deliberate and fair thought.

Be willing to admit that you might also make mistakes in trying to be a responsible parent.

More importantly, listen so your teen will talk

Be attentive, not only to what your teen says, but to the tone of his/her voice, expressions, and what his/her body language and eye contact are trying to tell you.

Try to stop what you are doing so that you can give your full attention to what they are saying.

Empathize with your teen’s attempts to express his/her difficult ideas and unresolved feelings.

Help your child to formulate choices and to consider the consequences of these choices.

Accept the reality that for the most part, this is your teen’s first experience in dealing with life stresses; hence, he/she will feel these situations are the most important thing in the world.

“Good communication skills help to strengthen mutual respect and trust in the family.”