Somewhere around middle school, parents notice a shift in the way they communicate with their teens. Parents tell me repeatedly their once sweet, happy, loving child seemingly turns into a touchy, reactive, or shut-down person they barely recognize. Where they used to have a close relationship, now their child responds with statements like “You don’t get it!”, a short grunt, or short one words answers to questions.
The Teenage Years Can be a Hard Transition for Parents Too
While this may be a normal stage for teenagers, it can be hard for parents to adjust to. Additionally, teenagers still need connection and safety from parents as they navigate life. So how can parents improve communication and best support their teens?
Here are a Few Tips to Improve Communication with Your Teen:
Make Yourself Available to Talk to your teen.
How many times have you been in the middle of a work project, on a phone call, or completing a chore when your teen enters the room? When we are busy, teens pick up non-verbal cues and are not as likely to engage in communication. Even worse, my teen clients tell me they feel like their parents are too busy for them, don’t care about them, or are annoyed by them. These stories they tell themselves create barriers to open communication.
Give Your Teen Your Full Attention
So, what do you do when you are in the middle of something important? It can help to tell your child you see them, want to give them some time, and then let them know exactly when you will be available. If what you are doing can wait, I suggest you pause it and give your full attention to your child. If not, when you do have that time, be sure to keep your phone down and make sure your non-verbal communication shows interest and attention. Make eye contact, lean forward, and avoid multi-tasking.
Summarize what your teen communicated to you.
If your child has just finished sharing a story, complaint, or request simply paraphrase back what your teenager said. By doing this you have an opportunity to show you were really listening and to check for understanding. This powerful tool can go a long way to help your child feel heard and understood and head off any miscommunications. Remember, simply summarizing what you heard does NOT mean you agree with them, it simply says you heard them.
Read for emotions and thoughts and check for accuracy.
Now that you know you have the content correct, you can pay attention to non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and body position. Do they look angry, scared, or sad? Does it seem like they have a particularly strong opinion or belief about something? Take a guess at what you think they might be thinking or feeling and reflect that back to them asking if that is correct.
For example, “I see your face is red and you are pacing back and forth. You seem angry. Is that right?” or “It seems like you really think they were wrong. Did I get that right?” Sometimes you leave off the checking for accuracy and just use the “it seems like” statement. Teens are notoriously good at correcting you if you get it wrong. Just be willing to accept whatever they tell you even if you are fairly certain you were right.
Take their history & the situation into account.
If you do nothing but the first 3 levels you are doing great, but you can really earn some bonus points here. Is there anything about your child’s history that would add additional validity to the way they are feeling or thinking? For example, are they having issues with a friend for the 10th time? Is this extra scary because something similar happened? If so, go ahead and state your understanding in the context of their history.
Let Them Know Their Feelings Make Sense
Likewise, is this a situation that makes sense for anyone? For example, would a lot of people be annoyed by a friend who constantly canceled plans at the last minute? If so, go ahead and reflect that to them as well. Let them know it makes sense they would feel that way.
You Do Not Have to be Perfect
Remember, you do not have to do all of these or even do them perfectly. The fact that you want to better communicate with your teens and offer them support and encouragement is already a great sign. Above all, keep in mind that we can validate and support our teens even if we think they are wrong. This simply means we are trying to understand what it is like to stand in their shoes and give them a safe space to explore their thoughts and feelings.
Closing Thoughts from a Teen Therapist in Katy, TX
If your teens seem to constantly struggle with making or keeping friends or have difficulty with intense emotions or unhealthy thoughts that may be a sign they need teen counseling. Likewise, if you are constantly struggling to communicate effectively with your teen or your relationship is strained, a professional counselor experienced in teen counseling and working with parents of teens might be beneficial.
Is Your Teen In Need Of Additional Support? Teen Counseling In Katy, TX Is Here To Help.
If you find yourself struggling to communicate effectively with your teenager or feeling disconnected from them, it’s time to take action and seek support. The teenage years can be a challenging transition for both parents and teens, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Consider reaching out to a professional teen counselor who can provide valuable guidance and tools to improve communication and strengthen your relationship with your child.
A trained therapist experienced in teen counseling and working with parents can help you understand your teen’s perspective, validate their feelings, and create a safe space for them to express themselves. Don’t let communication barriers and strained relationships persist. Take the step towards positive change and seek the support you and your teenager deserve. If you feel this would be a good fit for your teen follow the steps below to get started.
- Learn more about our teen counseling team here.
- Fill out our convenient online contact form for more information.
- Begin the journey to getting your teen well – schedule now.
Other Mental Health Services Offered At Katy Counseling
In addition to offering services for teen counseling, we also offer a wide range of services for adults, couples, and children. These services include Play Therapy, Adult Counseling, Counseling for Women, Couples Counseling, Trauma Counseling, and Lens Neurofeedback. Our goal is to meet you where you are and help guide you through the issues you are facing in a positive and supportive way.