3 Secrets to Communicating with Teens

By Janis Meredith | Posted 8/10/2020

Communicating with teenagers can be a huge challenge. Conversations often get tense and emotionally out of control. Here are some key ingredients to healthy communication:

Master Your Emotions

Your teen’s emotions are like a roller coaster; their highs are the highest and their lows are the lowest. When they carry that into conflict with you, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and let yours get out ratcheted up too.

But when you and your child are both yelling at each other, very little is going to get accomplished or resolved. The best way for you to handle your emotional teen is by managing your emotions first.

Do whatever helps you most: Give yourself a time-out before continuing the conversation, count to ten, or take some deep breaths. Do not attempt to solve a problem or work through a conflict until you’ve mastered your emotions. Control your emotions. Don’t let them control you.

Staying calm with your teen gives you the best chance to have a true conversation. Hopefully, your calmness will be contagious, and your teen will calm down too. It’s the key to turning a negative situation into a win.

Set the Frame.

You’ve probably heard it said that “It’s all in how you say it.”

Perception is everything when it comes to effective communication. That’s why it’s so important to set a productive frame when you go into any situation. By re-framing situations, you can turn enemies into friends.

However, re-framing sometimes takes thought and that’s why it’s so important to respond instead of reacting to your child.

For instance, let’s say your athlete is leaving their dirty uniform laying around after you’ve asked them over and over to put them in the laundry. You could react and yell at them while you pick up their clothes, or you could reframe and respond by saying something like: “I have to do laundry later, but it’s open now, please put your uniform in. Thanks!”

Communicate with Tact and Empathy.

When we speak tactfully, it opens the other person up to our ideas.

Your child is not going to be open to what you have to say if you are rude and tactless. Choosing your words wisely will help keep lines of communication open.

Let’s say your child comes home ranting about not getting playing time in basketball, soccer or volleyball, and you know that the reason is pretty clear. They are simply not up to the skill level of the other players. This is definitely a time for using tact and empathy.

“I know this is hard for you. I’m sorry. Have you talked with the coach about how you can improve your game?”

That response–instead of telling them to just give up, or trash-talking the coach–is much more productive and tactful. This can start a conversation about what they can actually do to resolve their problem.

Adolescence is a time of constant change, for both teens and parents. Working on healthy communication will not alleviate all challenges, but it will certainly help you maneuver the ones you will face and allow you to build a better relationship with your teen.

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.