Your child used to come home from school excited to talk with you about her day. She used to listen to your advice and laugh with you. Somehow, when your girl hit puberty, all of that went out the window. Now, every attempt at a conversation is met with eye-rolling, impatience, and, of course, exclamations of “you don’t understand!” You’re not the only one who struggles to communicate effectively with your teen. Every parent-daughter relationship will find its own style of communication, but if you’re having a hard time, here are some time-tested tips.
Demonstrate Adult Behavior
Be calm, don’t raise your voice or take cheap shots. Be consistent and patient in your communication. Additionally, remember that you don’t need to be your teen’s friend. They have friends. They need parents. In the midst of remembering to respect their perspective and opinions, you should always remember that you are the adult in the relationship and it’s your responsibility to set rules and enforce them.
Keep on Trying
We talk less and less with our children as they age, but it should be the other way around. Make a conscious effort to talk more with your child. If conversations are always about points of conflict between you in the home, then conversation is going to start being a negative thing between the two of you. Instead, open up conversations about their friends, their school, things they’re excited about, projects that you can do together, television shows that you both like, etc. Make special time for conversation, like during family dinner, or in the morning before they leave for school, or during a walk together. Remember, however, that most of the best talks will happen when you least expect them, and keep yourself open and available for it.
Be Consistent with Discipline
Make sure that your family and house rules are clearly defined, with clear and reasonable punishments for any infraction. These rules should be effectively communicated to your teen so she knows beforehand if she does something against the rules, and what the consequences will be. Take time to go over the rules together and get her input about them. If your teen crosses the line, be consistent and firm with the punishment.
Give Positive Reinforcement
Make sure that you point out your daughter’s positive actions and traits more often than you’re pointing out negative things. Some psychologists say the proportion for a happy relationship should actually be 1 negative thing to 5 positive things! So, always be looking for ways that you can compliment your daughter on her strengths, let her know that you’re proud of her accomplishments, and that you value the relationship between the two of you.
Spend as much (or more) time listening as you do talking. Finding a balance in your communication with your teen can be difficult, especially when they tend to clam up in conversations with you. However, most teens, when they see that you genuinely want to understand because you care, are willing to share more and more about what’s troubling them. When their comments are met with compassion and understanding, and they can see that you’re trying, it will foster an actual dialogue between the two of you. Start all of your advice and discipline with an attempt to understand their side as well as your own.
Ride it Out
Seeing your teen go down a bad path can feel like the end of the world. We can’t help envisioning all the worst-case-scenarios, but stop the fatalistic worrying! Most teens experience conflict with their parents. And most of them turn out just fine. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time and patience! So don’t freak out or go to extremes. Never stop letting them know about your care and concern, and make sure that you reach for professional sources when you need them, but remember that in the end, it will work out just fine if you keep the channels of communication open as much as you can.