ROBERT M. NEWELL, PH.D.
FORENSIC AND CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY
Specializing in Behavioral Healthcare for Children &
Adolescents, Families, Couples, and Adults.
WHAT EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT
SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE PARENTING
HOW TO TALK WITH YOUR TEENAGER
Adolescence can be a very difficult part of growing up—both for children and parents. The various physical, emotional, and social changes that occur during the teen years often are confusing for everyone in the family. Although this can be a challenging time, it can also be very rewarding to watch your child become an adult. Here are some tips for how to communicate with your teen that can help smooth the transition into adulthood:
· The first axiom of communication is that it is impossible to NOT communicate. That is, even when we think we are not communicating, we are still sending a message of some sort to the other person.
· The second axiom of communication is that every communication has two aspects:
1. The content of the message and,
2. A statement about the nature of the relationship between the two parties.
· Another important principle is that is impossible to talk WITH your child too much. Most parents make the mistake of talking AT or TO their teen too much—children call this “lecturing” or “nagging.” But children needs guidance and direction, so they need their parents to talk WITH them about their what’s going on in their life.
· One of the most important skills a parent can learn is how to talk “heart-to-heart” with their children. This requires honesty and courage...these two concepts together comprise what I call communicating with what I call “fearless empathy.” Teenagers call this “keeping it real.”
· Even if it seems like your teenager doesn’t want time alone with you, take a moment here and there to remind your child that your "door is always open" and that you are always there if he or she needs to talk.
· When your adolescent talks, be sure that you pay attention.
· Watch what your teenager does, not just what he or she says.
· Try not to interrupt, and don’t get defensive.
· Paraphrase your teen’s words and ask for feedback to make sure that you understand what was said to you.
· If you don't have time to listen right at that moment, set a time when you will have time.
· Debate—don’t argue...there’s a difference! It's okay to disagree with your teen, and for your teen to disagree with you. Sometimes the best we can do is “agree to disagree” as long as it’s done in a respectful manner.
· Respect your adolescent's feelings. Don't dismiss her or his feelings or opinions as silly or senseless. You may not always be able to help when your child is upset about something, but you can say, "I understand" or "Help me to understand." That's important!
· It's okay to get angry—teenagers can be very frustrating! However, be sure to criticize actions, not character. Use “I" statements as opposed to "you" statements. For example, you can say "I get upset when I find clothes all over the floor" as opposed to "You're a slob."
· Direct the discussion toward solutions. Be willing to negotiate and compromise so that your teen will learn how to problem-solve effectively.
· When rules need to be set, go ahead and set them! Don't be afraid to be unpopular for a day or two. Believe it or not, adolescents see setting limits as a form of caring.
· Try not to get upset if your adolescent makes mistakes. This will help your adolescent to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Remember to offer guidance when necessary.
· Let your child be the adolescent he or she wants to be, not the one you wish he or she was. Also, try not to pressure your adolescent to be like you were or wish you had been at that age. Be sure to praise your adolescent, not only for success but for the effort as well.
· Be a parent first, not a pal. Your adolescent's separation from you as a parent is a normal part of development – don't take it personally.
· Don't sweat the small stuff. Some of the annoying things that teenagers do may not be worth a big battle—let them go. Give your teen some leeway with regard to clothes, hairstyle, etc. Many adolescents go through a rebellious period in which they want to express themselves in ways that differ from (and often annoy) their parents. However, stay aware of the messages and ratings of the music, movies, and video games to which your child is exposed.
· Don't be afraid to share with your teen that you have made mistakes as a parent. A few parenting mistakes aren't that crucial. Parents also should share with their teenagers some mistakes they made as adolescents.
· Talk to a child psychologist if you are having trouble with your teenager. A professional can help you and your teen find ways to get along.
· Finally, keep an open line of communication. If you find talking with your child difficult, try writing notes or simply listening.
► CONTACT ME if you have any questions or concerns about how to help your son or daughter.
DR. ROBERT M. NEWELL
Copyright © 2004-2007 Robert M. Newell, Ph.D. All rights reserved.