Communicating With Your Teen

Most parents will agree that communication with their child is an important part of their relationship. Being able to communicate with your child will create a healthy bond within the family and allow for an environment in which your child will thrive. Somewhere around age 13, however, this communication may become challenging.

Developmentally, children change physically and emotionally in early adolescence. Along with these changes comes a need and desire for more independence, which may translate into less communication and less family interaction. Parents often struggle with these changes and the communication gaps that begin to emerge, resulting in parents’ frustration and lack of comfort while talking to their child. When parents feel pushed away by their teen, it is very important that they not take it personally, but instead modify the way that they communicate with their child to fit their new needs and capabilities.

Although your teen is asking for independence, he or she also still needs the structure and connectedness that family can provide. It is important that parents maintain the structure of the household, communicate their expectations of their child, and encourage children to communicate with their parents.

Many parents are confused as to how to talk to teens when they seem unwilling to interact. Parents understandably don’t want to push communication, fearing it may result in irritability or frustration on the part of both parent and child. Allowing your teen some autonomy is very important, as long as she knows that you are there for her if she needs you. If you see her struggling with something, ask her how she is doing. Allow her to talk about what is going on with her and ask what she needs from you. Parents often assume that their teen wants problems solved for them. With teens this is not always the case. Giving your teen the opportunity to problem-solve, and offering your help to facilitate this, is much more valuable that fixing the problem for her.

Following are some tips to maintain communication with your teen:

Stay involved with school. Ask your teen about how school is going. Engage him in conversation about a project that he is working on or a book that he is reading.

Share a hobby. Find something that you enjoy doing with your teen and make a date to do it on a regular basis. Whether it is bike riding, playing a game, going to the movies, or cooking together, this is an opportunity to connect in an activity that you both enjoy.

Have family dinners. Although it is always a challenge to coordinate schedules, eating together is a great time to connect with your teen. Having a ritual of eating dinner together and discussing the day, planning activities, and catching up with each other is an invaluable experience for families to have.

Communication is difficult for many parents of teens, but it is also very important in adolescent development. In addition to individual and group therapy, Adolescent Counseling Services’ (ACS) On-Campus Counseling Program offers family therapy to teens on the middle and high school campuses in Palo Alto as well as Menlo-Atherton High School. We provide a place for families to work on their communication as well as a range of other issues. If you are continuing to struggle with communication with your teen or are concerned, ACS can help.

Also, be sure to download or request a hard copy of “99 Tips for Talking With Your Teenager” by clicking here.


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