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Monday, 9 July 2018

How to communicate the right way with your teen.

Take the time to catch up with your teen, they might be willing to talk more easily now that they have a break.




Everyone is unique. Teenagers are no different. In fact, they are arguably more “unique” compared to other age groups. I bet at times you as a parent have felt like you don’t even know where they’ve come from. They are trying out strange hairstyles and have very unusual fashion choices. They can be over emotional or show no emotion at all. They can be very competitive or couldn’t care less. They challenge authority and act like the whole universe revolves around them. For some teenagers puberty and high school can be the embodiment of hell on earth. Others handle it with poise and grace – they feel right at home. The reason is because during this time their bodies undergo tremendous change. Their senses are heightened. They have to start thinking for themselves, find their identity and assert their own independence. This can be very overwhelming for them, especially if paired with all of the stresses they have – from their own expectations, peers, love interests, schoolwork and extracurricular activities. The way teenage girls develop, act, think and respond will also differ vastly compared to teenage boys. You can further categorise each in different groups and sub-groups. There truly isn’t a single recipe with easy steps for success with teens. All you can do as a parent is to love them unconditionally. Let them know that you are there for them and will support them in any way they need it. The key is communication.


In this article we will discuss the following ways you can communicate with your teen:

1. Schedule an appropriate time and place to talk.

2. Get a bite to eat before you talk.

3. Listen, not lecture.

4. Show interest in them.

5. Be attentive to their behaviour.

6. Assess the circumstances at your home.

7. Allow them to grow into the person they were meant to be.

8. Show that you trust them.

9. Get your emotions under control.

10. Do things together regularly.

11. Have follow-up conversations.



1. Schedule an appropriate time and place to talk.

When you schedule a meeting time with your teen it gives both of you the necessary time to prepare mentally for what you want to discuss. Make sure that you select a time and date that will suit you both. Ensure that you have set out enough time. You don’t want to start a conversation and then have to leave in the middle of it to go to a meeting. Select a location that is familiar and/or inviting to you both. The location shouldn’t be too noisy and/or have many distractions, but it also shouldn’t feel sterile or daunting like an interrogation room. Options can include the living room, garden patio, coffee shop or even go for a walk in the park together.
Tip: Make sure that no cell phones are present – including yours.

2. Get a bite to eat before you talk.

Don’t start your conversation right off the bat. Get something to eat first. Remember, you are on a special date with your precious son or daughter. Teenagers can be incredibly hungry since they grow so fast – especially boys. When they are hungry, they are more irritable and less likely to be in the mood for any conversation at all. When they enjoy a nice meal, they will feel relaxed and their blood sugar will become stabilised – which is crucial to have an engaging conversation with them. When you eat together it forces eye contact, which will naturally lead to informal conversation. It is important to regularly share meals with them. Children that can talk with their parents about everyday things at the dinner table will be more likely to open up towards their parents when it comes to harder topics. For more details on the importance of having a meal together as a family read section number seven, titled ‘Nothing brings people together like good food’ in our blog article “Suggestions on how to build trust, relationship and respect with your child”.

3. Listen, not lecture.

Teenagers can be very selective with whom they share information and with whom they don’t. They can speak freely on the phone or via text message with their friends about all kinds of topics, but when you come into the picture they may not be as forthcoming. This may be because they aren’t entirely comfortable to speak their mind in front of you. It is advised to allow them to do much of the talking. Just listen to what they have to say. Thomas Edison said: “We have but two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak.” When they start a conversation organically with you they will be more likely to share personal details about themselves. If they feel pressured to talk they will likely not have an honest and open conversation with you. 

If your child doesn’t want to talk about personal matters immediately you should respect that. Start the conversation by asking easy questions, such as whether they enjoyed the meal you just had. Ask them to tell you about their day. Tell them a bit about yours. Asking too many direct and personal questions might scare them off. When they make seemingly casual comments about what happened during the day it can be their way of reaching out. Pay close attention. Allow them to tell you more about it out of their free will. Don’t try to force anything out of them.

After you have made some small talk you should raise a short list of points that you would like to discuss with them. Having a list of points will allow you to keep track of what it is you would like to discuss and therefore avoid miscommunication. Remember, the slightest bit of unintentional harsh criticism from your side can throw them off completely and cause them to shut down. Choose your words and your tone of voice carefully. You won’t keep their attention if you lecture them for hours on end. Worse, you won’t find out how they feel or see things. Allow them appropriate time to process each point and to give a response.

4. Show interest in them.

You are having a conversation with your teen, because you care about him/her. Show them that you are interested in their wellbeing and happiness. Ask them what their dreams and goals are. If they play sports, ask them when their next game is and whether you can come and watch it. If they are learning a musical instrument ask them to perform for you sometime. Yes, even if it means that you will be sitting through a loud guitar jamming session! Offer to help them out with schoolwork, should they need any. If you show interest in their life they will most likely reveal more about themselves to you. You never know. Your big rugby star son may have a different side to him. Maybe he surprises you with a talent for drawing that you weren’t even aware of. Maybe your daughter wasn’t hiding illegal substances from you, only the novel she has been secretly writing in her spare time. Understanding what their interests and hobbies are will help you to understand them a little bit better.

5. Be attentive to their behaviour.

Teenagers go through many changes during this period of their lives. Their bodies change. They try to find their own identity and assert their own independence. They no longer are the small kids they used to be only a short while back.

Don’t criticise their new physical appearance. Teenagers can be very self-conscious. Allow them time to grow into their bodies. They have yet to adjust. They have to find their correct posture. Your boy’s voice is now that of a man’s. He will experiment with new ways to speak with his deeper voice. If it does sound a bit odd don’t make him feel uncomfortable. Teens will have their first crush and not know exactly what to do with these feelings. They might temporarily develop some odd habits. It is quite natural. They will eventually grow out of it and become comfortable with who they are. All you can do as a parent is be there for them and show them love and support. Make sure that they are healthy and live a balanced lifestyle. Talk to them about some of these changes and let them know that everything will be alright in the end.

However, if you find that their behaviour changes erratically to the point that you become concerned for their health and safety it is advised to step in. If you see that their energy levels, eating- and sleeping patterns, moods and motivational drive change drastically – so much that it borders on abnormality, you should have to discuss the delicate issue with them. Raise your concerns with love. Don’t be judgemental. Get their permission to take them to see a medical specialist / mental health professional.

6. Assess the circumstances at your home.

Many parents try to downplay or diminish the feelings of teenagers, because they believe that teenagers live in a “safe” environment and don’t know an awful lot about the “real world”. In other words paying bills and taxes, having their own business or work stress, raising kids and running a household. Yes, the death of a celebrity will likely affect them more than it will affect you. Yes, they care more about the release of the latest iPhone than what is necessary. Yes, a friend that didn’t greet them at a party will feel like a stab in the heart Yes, next week they will have forgotten all about it... 

The truth is that even if teenagers don’t completely comprehend the whole world, their entire world is you, their home, their family, their neighbourhood, their school, and their friends. If something is out of place there, they definitely feel it. The life of a modern teenager is far from “safe”. They deal with a lot of pressure from within these “safe” communities. That is why you have to assess the circumstances at your home and surroundings. Unfortunately parents split up. One parent loses their job or has to work in another country. Perhaps a sibling unexpectedly got an unusual health condition.

When changes occur that can be disrupting to them, you have to make a point of talking to them about it. Be transparent and let them know that these uncertainties also affect you, but you are in it together. You will make it through. Ask them how they feel about it and how they are coping. Some children are much tougher than others. Issues that you may not have been aware of can also come to light when you discuss the living conditions with them. If there is anything at your home that can cause your children distress, you should try to address it or put a plan into action to improve it. That way you will have a strong and lasting relationship. You want your children to visit your home after they leave school and find a job.

7. Allow them to grow into the person they were meant to be.

The best way to get to know your child is when they are comfortable enough to be themselves around you. There should obviously be parent-child boundaries, but you won’t have a good relationship with them if they fear you or are afraid that they might disappoint you. As a parent you should offer them guidance and support, but you should give them the freedom to explore and find out things for themselves. Allow them to make mistakes and to learn from their mistakes. Let them grow into their own person, not your version of them. For example, you may want your son to take over the family business one day, but he will be a far better software developer than a lawyer. Allow him to follow his dreams. You have had your turn. Your children will become successful and happy adults only if they know who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Praise them for their talents and uniqueness.

8. Show that you trust them.

Growing up is all about learning and experimentation. Teenagers want to be independent. They want to make their own decisions. They want to test their own abilities. They want to show you that they are capable of taking care of themselves. As a parent you have to allow your children to take some responsibility. It can be something small such as taking care of younger siblings, cooking dinner or mowing the lawn. It can also be something bigger, such as going to a party or dating or learning how to drive a car. It is healthy for them. Sometimes the timing is just perfect for them; other times they will fail. Unfortunately, that is life. By encouraging your children to try out different things you will win their trust. It shows that you have faith in them. It will boost their confidence. Inform them of what you expect of them and set some rules and boundaries before letting them run wild.

9. Get your emotions under control.

Things can quickly get out of hand when you are trying to reason with an over emotional teen with a hot temper. Remember, you are the parent and they are the child. You have had time to learn how to control your emotions. They haven’t. Don’t lose your cool when they do. It is incredibly easy to say things that both of you will regret later if you are upset and aren’t thinking clearly. Take a break if the conversation turns into a heated argument. You love your children - that is why you want a relationship with them that can last a lifetime. Don’t try to solve everything in one day. Give them time to process everything that you have just said. You should too.

10. Do things together regularly.

It is important that you and your child have deep conversations from time to time, but it doesn’t mean that you should stop there. You should communicate regularly. Talk about things that aren’t too personal. The easiest way to do that is if you do things together. It can include cooking, watching movies, playing games or hiking. By bonding with your child you win their trust. If you share mutual interests, discuss a possible project that the two of you can do together in the future. You should also be open to learn new things. Try to involve your teen in your world and get involved in his/hers.

11. Have follow-up conversations.

You can’t just have one deep conversation and expect the entire world to change. Change takes time. You have to allow them time to reflect on the things you have said. You should also reflect on the comments they have made. Schedule another time and date with your teen to follow up on your previous session. If your first approach worked, then you can try to do it the same way. If it did not, try a different approach. You can try a new location or allow them to choose this time. When you are having your next conversation make sure you give him/her feedback on their performance or behaviour. Praise them for the things which you see they have been working on to improve. Allow them to also give you feedback.



We sincerely hope that these tips will help you improve the communication between you and your teenage child. Let us know if you have any other techniques that have helped you build better relationships with him/her.