Southeastern Idaho Public Health

Positive Communication with Your Teen

Many parents feel uncomfortable and ill-equipped to communicate with their pre-teens and teens about tough issues. However, research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy confirms that positive, open communication between parents and children is critical in protecting teens from engaging in sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Research has also shown that teen daughters who have positive, open relationship with their mothers will delay the onset of sexual intercourse.

It is essential for parents to communicate openly with their teens and show them love and reassurance. Yes, your teen may shy away, but don't give up! Deep down, they are longing for their parents love and acceptance.

In a recent survey where teens were asked what problems they have with their parents, they often mentioned that their parents just don't listen to them. Parents must take time to listen to their teens, even though they are busy with their everyday lives, and give them their undivided attention.

To help you develop and initiate open, positive communication between you and your teen, a list of helpful communication skills has been provided to assist you in the process. Following these simple tips will lead you to that open parent/teen relationship that you and your child have been longing for, for so long.

  • When your teen is ready to talk, give them your undivided attention. Turn off the television, put down the newspaper, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
  • Be polite and respectful when speaking to your child. Treat them with the same respect that you would want to be treated with.
  • Stay calm when you are discussing tough issues. Issues such as dating, driving privileges, and curfew.
  • Do not be over critical of your teen. If you are always criticizing, your teen will not confide in you anymore.
  • Always admit when you are wrong. When you are wrong admit it and apologize.
  • Choose your battles. Do not sweat the small stuff.
  • Never make fun. Never tease your child because of their choice of hairstyle or clothing. Personal expression for a teen is very important.
  • Let your teen know that they can talk to you about anything. It is vital that your teen knows that they can come to you for anything. You may want to research topics in advance, so you are prepared when they do come to you with questions.
  • Share some of your personal experiences. Teens enjoy hearing stories about their parents growing up; then they know that they are not alone.
  • Never belittle your teen. This type of behavior can destroy your relationship with your teen. Never, ever treat them in this manner in front of their friends.
  • Build your teen's confidence. Do this by encouraging them to participate in sports, music, art, dance, volunteering, or any other productive and enjoyable activity.
  • Let your teen express her or him self. Teen's ideas and feelings may be different than yours, but that is okay.
  • Praise your child. Sometimes parents focus only on what their children are doing wrong, and forget to acknowledge the things they are doing right.
  • Try to hold regular family meetings. Schedule one every week or so to discuss family issues.
  • Remember when you were a teen. Put yourself in your child's shoes and remember all the difficult issues you were dealing with when you were a teen. Try to be understanding of what your teen is going through.
  • And ALWAYS TELL YOUR TEEN THAT YOU LOVE THEM! Remind your teen daily that you love and care for them very much.

It can't be expressed how crucial it is for parents to communicate and be there for their teen during these rough times. Parents are the most important and continuous influence in their child's life; they are the person teens turn to for advice, answers, examples, and security. By communicating to your child you are developing their self-esteem, self-confidence, good relationships, and the skills to make healthy life decisions.

Information was retrieved from the following sources:

National Education Association Health Information Network
http://parentingteens.about.com/
Statewide news from Parents Anonymous, winter 1997; Communicating with Your Teen.