Parent-Teen Communication: Best present for Mom or Dad…EVER

It’s the holiday season again (wasn’t it just yesterday?)  And for parents of teens, presents made of macaroni or popsicle sticks may be a thing of the past.  However, there’s one homemade present every parent will still treasure:  better parent-teen communication.

Granted – it’s more of a present to yourself.  But we deserve it.

The hustle and bustle of holidays combined with changing schedules and time away from school can quickly remind us of the differences in parent-teen communication styles and highlight stressful family dynamics.  Why not start your new year’s resolutions early this year? Use the holiday season to brush up on your parent-teen communication and build a better relationship with your teen.  It’s the gift that will truly keep on giving.

Here are 3 quick parent-teen communication tips to get you started:

  1. Resolve to ask only open-ended questions. These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes”, “no”, or one word answer. Like instead of “How was your day?” (Answer: “Fine.”) Try:  “What did you do today?” It might seem or even feel silly at first. But this is a tip that will quickly reward you with information and insight into your teen’s (often mysterious) daily life – and may even lead to genuine two-way dialogue!
  2. Create one-on-one time.Sure, this can be a dinner, but finding dedicated time for a one-on-one dinner over the holiday might be more stressful than not!  Embrace small moments as an opportunity to engage – and find out more about their latest interests.  Ask for help wrapping presents and have them bring the playlist.  Take them shopping to pick out a small present for their friend.  Test out their favorite video game on the store’s big screen or maybe just have them pick the video and snack for movie night.
  3. Use reflections.No, we’re not talking about pulling out the family photo album. This is a communication strategy that helps your teen feel “heard” and defuse emotions when tensions run high.  Here’s an example – your teen shouts at you “I can’t believe you won’t let me go to my friends to spend the holiday.  You don’t care about my feelings at all.”  Instead of immediately explaining the fault of their logic (e.g., you’ve spent the last 16 years dedicated to their safety, happiness and success, and you are only asking for one day of their time in return…), try this instead: “You want to spend the holiday with your friend.  Your friendship is very important to you.”  Then pause and really listen to their response.  You may follow-up with something along the lines of “Spending time together with you on the holiday is very important to me.  Let’s think through some ideas that will get both of us at least some of what we want.”

Perhaps the most important strategy: don’t forget to take it easy on yourself this holiday season.  These parent-teen communication techniques take practice – resolve to try them out, and don’t expect perfection the first time around.  Parenting a teen is hard – but ultimately rewarding – work.  Give yourself the gift of patience and permission to make mistakes on the path to building a strong relationship with your teen.  The best homemade gift…(for)ever.

For more effective strategies to build strong relationships with your teen (and a great stocking stuffer for yourself) check out “Teen Speak” by Dr. (and mom) Jennifer Salerno.

Wishing all families everywhere a very happy (and stress-free) holiday season from Possibilities for Change!

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