How to Interact With Teenagersby Kathryn Hatter
Communication is almost never effortless, but interacting with a teenager can pose special challenges. Sometimes you might wonder if your teenager is even listening as you talk, while other times, she may engage you in quite an emotional exchange. Although the conversations you have with your teen might not always be easy, your teen needs to feel your tenacious efforts to connect.
Realize that teenagers often feel overwhelmed by circumstances in their lives, states senior pastor Tedd Tripp, writing for the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. These feelings can make a teen unstable, with unpredictable highs and lows. Just realizing and remembering the emotional instability of a teenager might help you engage your teen with more thought and care and to better control your reactions to your teen to ensure positive interactions.
Approach your teenager with empathy and understanding, advises therapist Debbie Pincus, with the Empowering Parents website. A teenager’s flight or fight impulses often stem from feeling misunderstood, so if you can help your teen feel like you understand and care, your teen might be more likely to stay calm and interact positively. Phrases such as, “I hear the frustration in your voice,” or “I understand that this is hard,” communicate empathy.
Set time aside every day to interact with your teenager. Make yourself available when your teen is home so he can find you if he needs to talk. Look for opportunities to talk with your teenager whenever they arise, even at unexpected moments.
Engage in positive interaction that values your teen and affirms your interest. Strive to ask open-ended questions of your teen to encourage broader answers that begin conversations, advises the KidsHealth website. For example, instead of simply asking your teen how school is going, ask what he is reading for his English class or what he is learning in science.
Show your teenager that you are interested and listening whenever she talks, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, nodding or shaking your head in response to what your teen says, asking follow-up questions and then paraphrasing to ensure you understand.
Resist the urge to interrupt, criticize or show judgment to your teen when he communicates with you, warns the AAP. If your teen feels threatened or judged, he might retreat and stop communicating. Instead, approach what your teen says with questions and then gently guide the conversation to help your teenager find solutions. For example, you might say, “That’s a tough one. What do you think your options are for working that out?”
Strive to enjoy your teen. Although adolescence has its challenges, try to find the positives that strengthen your bond and enable you to feel positive about parenting.
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