Key Tips On How To Help Connect With A Difficult Teen
by Todd Griffin
(Penrith, NSW Australia)
There has been a constant question that runs through every parent's mind when their children hit puberty, and that is how to communicate with them.
We all know that when a teenager goes through adolescence, their emotional cycle varies and changes from time to time.
Having a regular parent-to-children-talk does not always go as planned and sometimes causes a gap between parents and their kids.
There are a lot of communication approaches that may work for others but not for your child—leaving you with an angry teenager struggling with piles of unresolved issues.
Teenagers are unique and are regularly a self-opposing breed. As a developing individual, they are in constant search for independence and acknowledgment.
Here are tips to help you build a connection with your difficult teen:
Find common ground
Communication has always been a key to most of life’s struggles. However, finding a starting point might be
difficult. Use a standard ground between you and your child.
• Start off with things like a hobby, show, games, or even a little secret. But remember that you should never force and repeat doing things you’ve done with them. Be creative and do something new, to help you keep up with their changing mood.
• After you've overseen yourself in the right moment, it's an excellent opportunity to give or relay a message to your child that should somehow be relatively close to the initial topic.
• Your tone says it all. The line between a good talk and a lousy conversation is very slim.
Communicate with your teen in a manner that would be most comfortable for them.
Give guidance with a hint or resistance
Since you have already established a clear ground for communication, you now have an opportunity to guide them in making decisions and keeping them on the right path provided, that you create a fine line between the two.
• The most effective way of executing this is to establish house rules which are reasonable and sensible yet, suitable for most situations.
• Try to involve yourself in decisions that they are going to make. The matters include: choosing schools to go to, career path to take in the future and other things that may relate to their growth and development.
• Stay away from being over nosy; this would result in getting you out of your teen’s decision-making process and worse, they could start keeping secrets from you.
• Give them the freedom to decide on the little things like what to wear (except for wearing something too skimpy), where to eat when at the mall with you, and the type of music to listen to. These things make them feel independent and allow them to discover their own personality—something you don’t want to take away.
Give them a sense of trust
Get your teens involved in the family’s decision-making process. Make them feel that you believe in them and that they’re opinions matter.
• Make your children feel that you trust them with their abilities and decision-making skills by giving them enough space to deal with things on their own. In time, you’ll notice that this approach is mutually beneficial for you and your teen.
• Listen to what your child has to say. Tell him or her to think carefully about their choices before making any decision. Offer pointers that could guide them as they assess their options.
• Teenagers are surprisingly creative. Let them weigh the pros and cons of what they want to do in an actual environment so that they could test it first-hand.
Establish a timeout-button
Time will come, your kid will make a wrong move, how you react to it will most likely change everything that you’ve recently build up—either destroying your connection with them or keeping it tighter.
• Just like how our laws are made, we should set first-time offenders off with just a warning. What if he slept a little late because of a new computer game he bought? She went home beyond the curfew because she went over to a friend’s house? Discuss such matters with them maturely instead of grounding them immediately.
• If you attempt to communicate with your child and he or she is out of line, provide them with a reasonable punishment for their actions.
• Keep it cool. Make sure to keep yourself calm before reacting to their action. As parents, we have a tendency to behave differently from how we ideally should.
Spend more quality time
When you’re off from work, and your teen is at home doing nothing, try to engage and create memories with them. Do activities that interest them, and not push for things you think they want.
• Ask them out. If you know that your teen is interested in an activity and found out that there is an event about it near you, ask if they’d like to join you.
• Off help when you find your teen working on an activity. If they refuse your assistance, respect it.
• Cook their favorite dish and share a meal with them. Warm up the conversation by sharing stories they can relate to. Don’t force them to say something back if they are not comfortable with it.
Take the right step
Every parent has gone through the stage of having to deal with struggling teens. To combat such a difficult phase, keep the connection within the family and create a foundation for a happy home. Connect with your beloved children with compassion and care. Make them feel that you are with them every step of the way.
Todd is the Director and Principal Psychologist at TG Psychology, in Penrith, NSW. He has over 14 years of experience working with adults and young people in both public health and private practice settings. He has treated people from diverse cultural backgrounds, with a variety of emotional health and behavioral issues, including depression, anxiety, relationship issues, anger, addictions, trauma, and grief. He has also facilitated a number of group programs, treating a wide range of issues: from quitting cannabis, to social skills training, self-esteem development, and deliberate self-harm behaviors.