Communicating with teenagers can be a huge challenge. Conversations often get tense and emotionally out of control.
I talk a lot about good communication on Raising Champion Families, but along with the important habits of listening well, asking good questions, not judging, and not jumping to conclusions, there are some other very key ingredients to healthy communication. Here are three of them:
Master Your Emotions
Your teen’s emotions are like a roller coaster; their highs are the highest and their lows are the lowest. When they carry that into a conflict with you, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and let yours get out ratcheted up too.
But when you and your child are both yelling at each other, very little is going to get accomplished or resolved.
The best way for you to handle your emotional teen is by managing your emotions first.
Do whatever helps you most: give yourself a time-out before continuing the conversation, count to ten, or take some deep breaths. Do not attempt to solve a problem or work through a conflict until you’ve mastered your emotions. Control your emotions; don’t let your emotions control you.
Staying calm with your teen gives you the best chance to have a true conversation. Hopefully, your calmness will be contagious and your teen will calm down too. It’s the key to turning a negative situation into a win for you and your child.
Set the Frame.
You’ve probably heard it said that “It’s all in how you say it.”
Perception is everything when it comes to effective communication. That’s why it’s so important to set a productive frame when you go into any situation. By re-framing situations, you can turn enemies into friends.
However, re-framing sometimes takes thought and that’s why it’s so important to respond instead of react to your child.
For instance, let’s say your child is playing their music too loud and you are having trouble concentrating on your work. You could react and yell into the next room to “turn down that racket” or you could reframe and respond by saying something like: “I have this project I need to get done and it should only take about 20 more minutes. I’m having a hard time concentrating with your music distracting me. Would you mind wearing your headphones until I’m done? Thanks!”
Any time you ask your child to do something or have to confront them about something, ask yourself, “how can I frame this in such a way that it will have a better chance of being understood and received?”
Communicate with Tact and Empathy.
When we speak tactfully, it opens the other person up to our ideas.
Your child is not going to be open to what you have to say if you are rude and tactless. Choosing your words wisely will help keep lines of communication open.
Let’s say your child comes home ranting about not getting playing time in basketball or soccer or volleyball, and you know that the reason is pretty clear. They are simply not up to the skill level of the other players. This is definitely a time for using tact and empathy.
“I know this is hard for you. I’m sorry. Have you talked with the coach about how you can improve your game?”
That response–instead of telling them to just give up, or trash talking the coach–is much more productive and tactful. This can start a conversation about what they can actually do to resolve their problem.
Adolescence is a time of constant change, for both teens and parents. Working on healthy communication will not alleviate all challenges, but it will certainly help you maneuver the ones you will face and allow you to build a better relationship with your teen.
If you’d like some communication tools to use in your home, I’ve got a 3-session coaching program that will give you those tools. Schedule a free intro call to learn more.