These days parents are spending more time with their teens than ever before, and yet the most frequent concern I hear is, “ My teens will not open up to me!” Parents realize that these are challenging times for their teens and are worried when they don’t share how they are feeling.
For some parents, this is not a new phenomenon, and be assured that it is certainly developmentally appropriate that in adolescence children begin exploring separation from their parents. That being said,
“Parent-teen communication is vital and providing a safe and supported climate is essential if your teen is going to choose to open up to you.”
Teens learn from past experiences whether sharing feelings and concerns is going to make them feel comforted or more likely to lead to conflict. Creating a welcoming and open environment that lets your adolescents know they can come to you with anything and not be judged or lectured to, will be the first step in promoting a relationship that fosters open communication and meaningful conversations. In addition, the positive impact of having an available and supportive parent can make all the difference to a teen’s well-being and resilience.
Tips for encouraging open communication with your teen:
- Listen!: It can be helpful to ask questions for clarification, but other than that, do not interrupt, do not lecture, and wait until they are finished. Remember you can learn a lot more from listening than talking!
- Be Understanding: Don’t trivialize or be dismissive. If they’ve come to you with a concern, then it is important to them! Showing true empathy goes a long way in strengthening your relationship with your teen.
- Be Available: It may be a challenge to be consistently open and available for the adolescents in your life, but timing can be everything. Whether it is a spontaneous conversation in the car, or a chat right before bedtime late at night, these can be the moments that bring about the most meaningful conversations.
- Be yourself: Remember you are the parent, so don’t try to talk like your kids or their friends. They’ve reached out to you for a reason and are looking for an adult perspective. Remember, no matter how often your teen might appear to resist your input, your approval and support is not only valued, but essential. Open communication might take effort and practice, but the message sent is that they are a priority and that you love them unconditionally.
For additional information contact: Susie Hurst, M.A. Director Family Life Education/Adolescent Specialist, CHAI Program Susieh@jfskc.org or 913.327.8259