Tips on How to Improve Family Communication

The teenage years can be a challenging time in the parent-child relationship. At this stage in their development, teenagers figure out where they fit in this world as they find new friends and develop different hobbies. 

We have all experienced this to some extent, it can be confusing and saddening as they find their strengths and weaknesses, which can sometimes make it difficult to connect with them.

One of the difficult developmental stages for teenagers is wanting to handle life more on their own as they start asserting their own independence. Because of this, many parents struggle to be there and connect with their teens.

This can be a confusing time for many parents as they struggle to find their teenager’s needs. Particularly because teenagers are starting to make decisions about issues that could have real consequences, such as friends, school, and driving. 

Since they are figuring out how to regulate their emotions, teens tend to be more susceptible to taking risks and making decisions that tend to be more impulsive before thinking about consequences.

A trusting and healthy parent-child relationship has always been very significant during adolescence. However, maintaining a close relationship can be challenging during this period.  Typically, teenagers don’t want to be bothered by someone who isn’t at their stage in life. 

They are usually open with their friends, who they constantly talk to about what is happening in their lives. However, they might give the cold shoulder when parents or other family members ask how they spent their day or how they are doing. A seemingly reasonable question could be perceived as prying.

If any of this sounds like your current situation, inhale very deeply and remind yourself that we all, at one point in our lives, need time to figure ourselves out. Like other stages of their development, the adolescent years are a period that will pass.  

As a parent, your job is still tremendously important; your role may have changed only slightly.  Below are some tips that can be used to hone your communication skills and navigate this new territory.

Sharpen Your Listening, and Other Non-verbal Communication Skills

If you want to know about what is going on in your teenager’s life, asking pointed questions may not be as impactful as just sitting down and listening. Adolescents are more likely to open up to their parents if they do not feel obligated to share details of their lives. 

Remember, even an offhand comment about something that happened during the day is their method of reaching out. If you remain open and interested, it is more likely that you will hear more about how they are doing.

Validate Their Feelings

Typically, it is the tendency of parents to try to downplay the disappointments of their children or solve problems for them. However, saying something like ‘He or she was all wrong for you anyway’ following a romantic situation could come across as you being dismissive.  

Rather, you should show your teenager that you understand and empathize by reflecting and then commenting, ‘That definitely sounds difficult.’

Demonstrate Trust

Teenagers would like to be taken seriously, particularly by their parents.  Find different ways to demonstrate you trust your teenager. Asking them to do a task demonstrates that you depend on them.  Offering a privilege shows you believe they can do it.  Letting a teen know you have faith in him or her will boost confidence, making it easier for your teen to rise to the occasion.

It is Not a Dictatorship

Rule setting is still your domain; however, you should be willing and ready to explain them.  Pushing the boundaries comes naturally for teens; however, hearing a thoughtful explanation about why a particular rule is in place will make it seem more reasonable.

Praise Their Efforts

When they are younger, parents typically praise children more; however, teens are as much in need of the self-esteem boost. Adolescents may act like they are too unbothered to care about the opinions of their parents, but they still want your endorsement.  Additionally, you should look for opportunities to be encouraging and positive as this is good for the relationship, particularly when a strain is noticeable.

Be in Control of Your Emotions 

When your teenager is being rude, it is easy for tempers to flare, but try to be understanding of what they might be going through. Try to control your emotions and think logically when they are upset. Take some deep breaths or count to ten before responding. If both of you are too upset to talk, wait until you can calm down.

Try Fun Things with Your Teens

Talking is not the sole means of communication. During adolescence, spending time and doing things that are enjoyable for both, whether hiking, cooking, or going to the movies, is very crucial. 

It is important for children to be aware that they can be nearby and share positive experiences without needing to fear that you will ask intrusive questions or berate them for family issues you may be having.

Normalizing these family activities can provide more opportunities for you to have one on one “heart to heart” talks with them without them feeling like you are only doing things with them because you are concerned. 

If you only plan fun activities when you are concerned about them, they may even cause you concern on purpose just to spend more time with you.

Spend time with your kids!

Family Meals

Sitting down and sharing a meal as a family is another remarkable way of staying close. Dinner conversations provide every family member with an opportunity to check in and casually discuss sports, hobbies, friends or school. 

Teens who are comfortable talking to parents about daily occurrences are more likely to be open about challenges they are working through. It also helps during these meals to set out a time (so they can expect it, showing respect) when dinner happens that there will not be any distractions (phones, gaming devices, ect.).

Be an Observer

As they mature, it is normal for children to experience some changes. However, you should pay close attention if changes are noticed in their mood, appetite, behavior or energy level. Similarly, note whether your teen stops wanting to do things that previously made them happy. 

If a change is noticed, ask them about it in a supportive, non-judgmental way. Your help, even if it is someone to talk to, is needed. 

It could also be a sign that a mental health professional may need to get involved.

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