TIPS ON HOW TO COMMUNICATE
WITH YOUR TEEN
1.WATCH YOUR JUDGEMENTS
If your teenager daughter behaves in a way that shocks you, don’t put her down or shame her. Deal with your negative feelings with someone else first, then approach your teen expressing love and concern. If you think it is serious, inappropriate behavior or are worried about safety or emotional development talk to a professional.
Instead of lecturing, try listening! Listen to their reasoning first. Be quiet and allow them to talk to you without turning it into a lecture . Try not saying anything back…at all. Make room for them to talk and just validate. “Wow, that sounds really hard.” or “That sucks!”
Nod, smile, say “Really?” or “Wow!” when you’re not sure if you agree or if you are shocked. Don’t use put downs. Tune in and stay interested and empathize with any feelings that seem to be coming up like sadness, anger, or fear. You can figure out how to approach the situation when you’re calmer later.
4.OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
Start with “What” or “How” and avoid “Why” questions.
“What happened at school today” instead of “Did you have a good day?”
“How were you feeling when that happened?” instead of “Why did you…”
5.GIVE THEM THE BALL BACK
Give them room to solve their own problems. They are exercising their thinking and decision making muscles. Praise their good thinking and decisions when you can. “How are you thinking you’ll deal with that?” instead of “You should…”
“You were in a tough spot. I think you made a good decision even though it....”
Don’t berate or put down your teen even if they make a mistake. This leads to shutdown, power struggles and rebellion even if they realize they’re mistaken. Consequences may indeed apply, but listen to their thinking and reasoning and then express concern or point out why it didn’t work. Teach with respect.
© 2009 Marianne T. Vernacchia, MFT#35980