Jennifer Whitlock, Licensed Professional Counselor
How to Talk to a Teenager
Friendly advice for Parents
—Listen.That means giving your full attention.Turn off the television.Put down the phone.It can be infuriating to talk to someone whose attention is somewhere else.
—Try not to lecture or criticize.These are sure ways to make a teen tune you out, even if you have valid points.Keep it short and sweet.
—Acknowledge and validate the teenager’s feelings.What might sound kind of trivial to you might feel devastating to an adolescent.Avoid teasing and criticizing their feelings.
—Ask for their help, opinions and suggestions in solving a problem.Show that you respect their opinions and find their ideas interesting, even if you don’t agree.And if their ideas make sense, use them.They’re more likely to follow through on their own ideas.
—Role model the way you want your teen to express anger.Respectfully explain your concerns.Avoid blaming and put-downs.If you’re too angry to speak calmly, table the discussion for later, explaining you don’t want to say something you’ll regret.
—Encourage your teen to express anger appropriately, including anger towards you. When they’re calm, ask them what makes them angry.Listen to their opinions and try to understand their feelings.If complaints are realistic, work out a solution or compromise.
—Try to ignore attitudes.If a teen is not allowed to talk about his anger, he’s likely to let it out indirectly, with stubbornness, complaining under his breath, “forgetting” to do chores and doing small things to get on your nerves.If you react to these tactic with anger and attempts to control, you may escalate the situation.Try ignoring it and speaking about the anger when you’re both calm.
—Try not to take mood swings and silences personally.This is the time of life when your child is starting to separate from his or her parents.Sullen silences and embarrassment over being seen with a parent are quite normal.
—As much as you’re tempted, don’t pump a teenager for information. The more persistent you are in demanding information, the more stubborn and secretive the teen can be.
—Resist the temptation to over-control.Help teens to weigh the pros and cons of their actions and develop independence.Being overly restrictive can create an angry oppositional kid or a sheltered obedient kid who remains dependent on authority.Do you really want an obedient adult living in your house the rest of his life?
—Be patient.It’s not easy to be a teenager’s parents, and it isn’t easy to be a teenager either.It’ll pass.
Copyright 2015 by Jennifer Whitlock, 93 Main Street, Newton, NJ 07860; Jen@JenWhitlock.com; 973-222-3750