The first step to having a healthy teenager is having a healthy relationship with your teenager. You, the parent, are their compass to how things work in the world. Several tools are at your disposal such as leading by example, active listening and asking your teen to be involved in decisions that involve them. Show your teen that they are important by saying they are and allowing them to have a voice. Fostering this type of relationship will hopefully bring smoother sailing in the teenage years and healthier relationships down the road.
Leading By Example
From the time children can comprehend the world around them they are watching their parents. They learn language and everyday tasks by imitation alone. Effective communication is no different. A teenager who sees constant arguing and strife between adults will learn accordingly. Showing your teen that talking calmly and working through hard issues with reason will allow them to use those tools. If a situation is becoming explosive, demonstrate self-control by taking a break and revisiting the conversation later. Teaching anger coping techniques to your teen is as easy as using them in your daily life. Explain to your teen later on what the purpose was behind your actions to give them some context as well.
Initiate conversations in a non-confrontational way with other adults and with your children. Refrain from cursing, crude jokes or sarcasm, and your child will as well. Open honest communication starts with you.
After initiating a conversation with your teen, listen to them. You may have an idea of how this conversation should go but that will get side tracked. Your teen is finally talking to you! Acknowledge their ideas and give them your full attention. Taking time out of the fuss and muss of everyday life is challenging, but this is your child. They actually want you to hear what they have to say.
While you are listening, look for ways to insert praise or positive feedback. If they have a good idea, let them know. If you understand what is being said, say so. When they start to not make sense, gently ask them ‘I’ centered questions so as not to sound accusative. Instead of saying, “you are not making sense” how about “I am having trouble understanding”. Centering questions or comments around yourself instead of them will show that you are involved and interested.
Now that you are in this conversation and involved, let them be too. Allow their ideas some room to grow and mature with your guidance. After the initial shock of a seemingly outrageous request, hear them out. Are they really asking for an expensive gift, or the opportunity to earn it? Are they really looking to pry into your private life, or for answers to their own?
Never completely disregard what your teen is saying to you without some thought. Sometimes allowing their involvement will take some time. It is ok to tell them that you will think about what they have requested and revisit the conversation. Your teen is just trying to learn and understand the world around them. Allow them access to their best tool, you and your experiences, to set them up for success.