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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 3 - May/June 2013

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Are Your Teens Talking to You?

By Michelle Mitchell

Research conducted by Mission Australia in 2011 shows that 60% of teenagers still choose to talk to their parents about the issues that matter to them. However, most parents I share this statistic with feel like their family is in the 40% and wish their teenager spoke to them more often.

A report written by Dianne Mckard, PhD suggests that 85% of teenagers value their parents' opinion about serious decisions, yet a quarter were unable to talk to their mother and half of the girls and a third of the boys were unable to talk to their father.

In my experience, teenagers can have a good relationship with their parents and not talk to them. They can believe their parents care about them and not talk to them. They can even want their parents' opinion and not talk to them. Communication between parents and teenagers doesn't always come naturally and isn't a reflection of the love and care in a home.

It can be challenging to know how to talk to teenagers about sensitive topics (or any subject at all) when they have decided they no longer want to talk to you. A roll of the eyes, a "Do Not Disturb" sign or a blunt "Whatever" can lead parents to a dead end if they don't know how to navigate around these.

Below are a list of five strategies that are designed to help improve communication between parents and teenagers.

  1. Don't Get Offended

    What teenagers say in the heat of the moment may not be a true representation of what they are feeling inside, so don't take it personally. Remember that "I hate you", usually means "I am annoyed right now"; and that 'whatever' is a phase that will pass just as surely as 13 will pass on their 14th birthday.

  2. Delay Your Agenda

    When parents are pushed for time they tend to approach teenagers with a set agenda with little regard for their teenager's head space. This can interrupt and frustrate a teenager who would prefer to text their friends or play x-box. If parents delay their agenda, and deliberately connect with their teenager before bringing up their concerns, they will have a more open starting point.

  3. Listen with Your Heart

    When teenagers tell me their parents don't listen I can't help but chuckle. What teenagers usually mean is that their parents don't understand or agree with their opinion. Accepting and acknowledging your teenagers thoughts, even if you don't like them, are important in communicating. Sometimes it is more appropriate to listen with your heart than to present a rebuttal speech. If every conversation is an intense one, dominated by correction or education, your teenager won't want to talk to you.

  4. Choose Your Environment Carefully

    When and where you communicate is just as critical as the words you use. If your teenager is not a big talker, try walking and talking, or driving and talking. At least this will be less confronting than eyeballing them over the dinner table. Boys tend to communicate better when their bellies are full or after they been physically active. Talking straight after teenagers arrive home from school is probably the worst time.

  5. Spend Time Together

    Spending time together doesn't ensure communication, but it does provide an opportunity for communication. The more quality time you can spend together, away from the interruption of technology, the better. If you are the person who is there when your teenager needs or wants to talk, chances are they will talk to you.

More Information

Michelle Mitchell
Founder of Youth Excel
Author of 'What Teenage Girls Don't Tell their Parents'


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