Help Your Teens Talk to You

Communication Tips for Parents

Take a few seconds to slow down, take a deep breath and respond mindfully. Below are additional tips to improve communication skills with your teen.

When you're speaking:

-Be brief. Keep it short.

-Avoid "you always" or "you never"

-Use "I...."

-Use good tact and timing

-Notice your teens verbal and nonverbal responses

-Take turns and listen

When you're listening:

-Show that you're listening

-Pay attention to your facial expressions, posture, tone

-Don't interrupt, just listen

-Don't over interpret or add judgment

When you speak, keep it short (i.e., sentences not paragraphs). Avoid lecturing. Your message will be diluted as it becomes longer and harder to attend to. One clear short message is always best.

Make what you're saying easy to hear. Be tactful. Avoid things that make your child defensive like accusations or putdowns (e.g., you never listen, you always wait until the last possible minute).

Be mindful about when and how you're starting a conversation. You should ask yourself: Is this a good time? Is there a tactful way to bring-up this subject? If your child cues you (her facial expression changes or she says) that it is not a good time or communicates a need, listen to your teen and decide how best to proceed.

Pay attention. Put down phones and other devices. Make eye contact. Use an open posture and attend to what your facial expressions say. Are you showing impatience, rolling your eyes, invalidating her feelings, showing anger or coming across annoyed or overwhelmed?

Be firm, consistent, and caring. Avoid patronizing your teen and never speak with contempt --take a break instead and come back to talk to your teen at a later time.

Don't interrupt, just listen. If you have questions you want to ask, wait until your teen is finished talking. He may answer the question as he speaks. Even if you know what your teen is going to say or know it is a bad idea, listen respectfully.

Listen to what your child is saying and why it's important without making judgments with your facial expression, tone or comments because it shuts down communication.

No one is a perfect listener (or speaker). We usually only hear part of what someone says so repeat what you heard to check. Allow for clarification.

Do you notice any patterns that you tend to get into with your teen? What is helpful or unhelpful about them? What would you like to do differently? Focus on changing or adding one skill at a time. Practice good communication as often as you can. Celebrate small changes and be proud of the effort you’re making!

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McLean Child & Family Psychology