When I speak to parents I hear over and over again that they want their teenagers to communicate with them. I also read an article which stated that the thing teenagers want most is for their parents to communicate better with them.
But communication is clearly a major issue for you if you have teenagers.
I have recently asked some parents specifically how they communicate with their teens and I got these answers:
I’d love to get past the grunts!
My teenager doesn’t hear me because his face is always glued to a screen. When I ask him several times he accuses me of nagging and then gets angry.
When something happens that he doesn’t like he just shouts and it’s scary.
She doesn’t seem to realise that the way in which she says things sound rude.
The things he puts in a text would sound awful if said out loud.
Do these ring true for you?
Should you just accept it’s a phase and you have to get through it the best way you can?
Why is it that you have these problems with our teenagers?
Is it something that you have done wrong?
Yes, it is a phase in their development but no, you don’t have to put up with shouting, swearing and general obnoxious behaviour. Phew!
Adolescence is the period of time when your children are developing into adults and it’s a period of vast change. Your teenager is becoming aware of their own uniqueness which means they realise they have their own place in the world and their own views and values. For some this means rejecting your values just because they strive to have their own. That can be upsetting for you, I know. Think back to your teen years and try to remember how important this was for you.
The other major change is that they are striving for independence but at the same time often need your help and support. It’s absolutely necessary that they develop independence in order to function as a healthy adult but this doesn’t seem to happen in an easy way for you as a parent. One day they’re telling you to keep your nose out of their business and the next they want a cuddle at bedtime. There’s a great boom called “Get out of my life but first can you take me and Alex into town?” The title sums up that chameleon type quality of a teenager!
So with a bit of understanding you could try accepting that adolescence is an up and down time and know that perhaps your son/daughter is just having a teenage day. Try to give them positive support and choose what’s important to have a battle over. Guide them over what’s not an acceptable way to talk to you.
Most of the time you will have done nothing wrong. We all have off moments don’t we? Time moves so quickly that you probably look at your teenager and wonder where the time has gone? It’s tough as a parent to be constantly adapting as children grow and develop – but adapt you must if you are not to have a complete breakdown in communication. And this does happen. I know several people who have moved to the other end of the country, or to another country, as a young adult to get away from their parents. If you don’t want that to happen make some changes now.
So what exactly does communication with a teenager sound like?
Firstly it won’t sound like communication with a 6 year old where you can tell them what to do. And it won’t sound like communication with another adult where you can guide and negotiate and reason much of the time.
So it’s going to be somewhere in between and that’s ok if you accept it for what it is. It’s going to be different on different days and often you have to catch your teenager just at the right time. This may be in the car on a short journey, or when you’re getting dinner ready or homework time. It may even be by text. Be alert to the potential.
There may be something you need to say which could be met by grunts. At some level they will be listening. Maintain your values just don’t always be overtly forcing them upon your teen. It’s a case of lead by example.
Really believe your teenager is a great human being with huge potential. I know that’s almost impossible sometimes! Everyone needs a cheerleader and teens are full of self-doubt despite the bluff! If it’s really becoming impossible, keep a journal of all the great things your teen has said or done. It’s easy to dismiss them when they are being rude and obnoxious.
At Well Kids I help parents to maximise the great things they are doing with their teens and give them some strategies to minimise the awful crunch points. I start by chatting with them for up to 60 minutes to help them get clear on what’s working well and what needs changing. That’s a completely free, no obligation hour. If you’d like to chat to me either email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on 07941 320527 with 2 or 3 times that would suit you.
Lots of love to you and your teen