When your child becomes a tween/teenager, it feels like they have become completely different people. The ways you used to connect with them no longer work, they seem uninterested in everything have to say, you feel like you can never please them and all they want to do is spend time in their room, with their friends or out of the house. It can be a big shift and parents may feel completely lost. These are a few tips to help connect and way to communicate with your teen.
Ways to connect with your teen
Create a Safe and Judgement-Free Environment
When finding ways to connect with your teen be aware of the environment you speak in. What may have once been dinner table conversation becomes more sensitive as they get older. Think about creating a safe and judgement-free environment for them to feel safe to chat with you about whatever is on their mind. Be cautious when it comes to judgement in these conversations. The goal of connecting and communicating with your child is to learn abut what is going on in their lives and to be there to support them and keep them safe. When you judge something that they are saying, you are telling them that it is not a safe environment for them to open up in.
Repeat what your teen said
By repeating what you teen has said in the conversation, you are confirming that you heard them right so that you can respond to them appropriately. By repeating what they said, you are making sure that you don’t make a mistake in how you respond to them. You are also giving your self the opportunity to really hear what they have said while allowing yourself an extra moment to decide how to respond to what you have heard. Then, ask a follow up question that shows that you heard their concern and gives them the opportunity to respond and elaborate.
It sounds so simple, but when push comes to shove, it’s not always so easy to do. When your child opens up to you, it’s important that you try your best to empathize with the feelings they are having. Remember that while it may not seem like a big deal to you now, you once experienced the same feelings as a teenager. Empathizing with your teen’s feelings gives them the feeling that you truly understand what that must have been like for them. Saying things like:
“That must have been a really difficult thing for you to go through”
“That is really upsetting, you must have felt so uncomfortable”
“I understand how that must have felt for you, I am proud of the choice you made”
will allow your teen to feel safe and comfortable to continue sharing with you and will allow you to connect deeper with your teen. While it may feel like a challenging thing to do at times and whether or not you agree with how they felt, their feelings are theirs and the best thing you can do is show them that you understand how they feel.
Remove all distractions, for both of you!
There are a million things distracting us all the time. In order to give your kids the attention they deserve and connect with them, remove all distractions. Turn off the computer, the TV and remove the phones from the room. Less distractions equals more time for uninterrupted communication.
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
The more conversations you have, the better the communication will become. Set time aside, once a week or as often as you think works for your family, to have a sit down conversation. They may start shorter in length and then grow in time with frequency. The more you repeat these conversations, the easier they will be and more open the lines of communication will become!