Talking with teens.
Teenage years are an important transitional period, often marked by change, unpredictable moods and strong feelings. At times, these feelings can be hard for a young person to understand and manage, let alone talk about. As teenagers are figuring out who they are, parents are often learning to navigate the balance between offering both support and space for their teenager. Relationships between parents, families and young people can become strained and tense, and often there is a need to try new ways to connect and communicate. Positive and open communication can help facilitate these relationships, as well as the development and self-esteem of your teenager.
Tips for talking with your teen
- Good body language: try to keep your body language relaxed and open. Use appropriate eye contact and show your teenager that they have your full attention.
- Listen: try to listen more than you speak. Before offering advice or a solution, allow your teenager to have the space to open up and share.
- Be curious: ask questions that are open and curious, for example “How did you feel about what happened?”. To encourage more talk, try not to ask too many questions that have a yes/no answer.
- Create a routine: try to make time to check in with your teenager. Ask about their day or their interests – focus on topics that they want to discuss.
- Hold back judgement and show compassion: it can be difficult for teenagers to talk about what is going on for them. Try to acknowledge their feelings, without minimising what they are saying. Avoid judgement and advice, as this can shut down a conversation if they are not yet ready to hear advice.
When talking becomes difficult
- Continue to check in: try to be persistent and gentle. Remind them that you love them and are there for them.
- Respect their space and privacy: try not to force a conversation on a young person or barge into their space uninvited. Ask them if there’s a good time to talk.
- Connect in other ways: if your teenager is avoiding conversations, try to connect with them in other ways. You may try engaging in activities and hobbies together, for example watching a movie together, going for a walk, or playing a game. It may also be helpful to involve other family members or friends to remind them of their support network.
- Show understanding: at times you may find it difficult to understand where your teenage is coming from. Even if you don’t agree, be understanding and non-judgemental to help your young person feel validated.
- Provide reassurance: if a young person is struggling with their emotions, they’re likely to hold a more negative view on things. Let your teenager know that things will be okay and focus on taking things slowly and step by step.
If you are concerned about your teenager’s mental health or unsure of how to connect with them, it may be a good idea to seek support. Let your teenager know that help and treatment is available and that you can work together to seek support.