“Less talking, more texting” seems to be the mantra of teens these days, and indeed, the majority of teens now say their favorite way to communicate with friends is by text.
Screen use is one thing, and teen psychology is quite another, though both contribute to potential communication issues between teens and adults. The brain doesn’t stop developing until we are around 25 years of age, and in teens, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in reasoning and making decisions) is still very much in development.
This means that teens can be more impulsive and find it harder to pay attention and listen. Then there is the generation gap. Teens are very much peer-centered, and are often far more interested in what other teens have to say than in adult viewpoints. All this amounts to a challenge for parents wishing to maintain open lines of communication. The good news is that there are a myriad of ways to overcome these obstacles and create a fruitful relationship with the teen in your life.
The Power of Active Listening
Getting your teen to communicate more with you starts by working on your own listening skills. The buzzword in communication studies in current times is active listening, which involves ensuring that your teen truly feels heard.
In order to listen to them actively, be fully present for your teen. Face them and maintain eye contact, without interrupting them. Listen without judging, jumping to conclusions, or offering unsolicited advice.
Show that you are listening by nodding and paraphrasing what they are saying, and ask questions to clarify their viewpoint. Stay focused and observe the non-verbal cues they may be sending you. Don’t make the mistake of planning what you’re going to say as soon as they are quiet. Focus more on trying to really understand the thoughts and emotions they are trying to convey.
Broaching Difficult Subjects
Some subjects are inherently challenging to talk about with teens. For instance, if you discover your teen is smoking, then simply telling them not to or threatening them with punishment may actually be counter-productive. To encourage teens to quit harmful habits like smoking, avoid giving them dire warnings or showing them scary pictures. Most teens aren’t really focused on what their lungs will look like in 20 years, so think about how you can reach them more effectively.
The use of positive teen influencers and storytelling are two ways that may reach your teen more effectively. Health and fitness influencers like Barnare Madolora, Jin Young Lee, and Kailane Ramos have hundreds of thousands of followers, and they share key fitness and nutrition tips with their followers. You can also tell your teen the stories of celebrities who have quit, with great results. Rumer Willis, Paris Jackson, and Lady Gaga have all shared stories of how hard it is to quit smoking and why it’s better not to start in the first place!
Choosing the Moment
Teens can sometimes be reluctant to share their trials and tribulations with parents, so it is vital to be observant and watch out for signs that they aren’t interested in speaking. If they answer you curtly, look at their phone, or display closed body language, then chances are, it isn’t the best time to start a conversation. Instead, wait until you are out and about together, enjoying quality time and building a relaxed and open mood.
When your teen is feeling close to you, they are much more likely to answer targeted questions that don’t seem too intrusive, but that do aim to discover more about what is taking place in your teen’s life.In a world that is dominated by screens and social media, connecting with teens can be a challenge. However, it is easier than it seems to get around communication obstacles and bond with your teen loved one.
By mastering active listening, broaching difficult subjects with finesse, and choosing the right moment, you can foster honest, open, and effective communication. Avoid lecturing and pick up the art of understanding instead. It’s time to bridge the generation gap and build a fruitful relationship with the teens in your life. Let the meaningful conversations begin.