By Brynn Rosadino & Amy Kostak, CFLE.

Do you have a hard time understanding your teenager?

Are you worried that there are things about which your teen isn’t open with you?

As your child enters adolescence, your relationship will inevitably start to change.

Teenagers go through a period of identity formation which can look a lot like rebellion. Your teen may be distancing herself from you, as she grasps at independence. But be assured that parental affection and support are still needed. Even if your teen does not express it, he needs you more than either of you know!

This time can definitely put a strain on your relationship, especially if you don’t have some ideas about how to handle the many biological, social and emotional changes your teen is experiencing. Having a relationship with open communication between you and your teenager is crucial in maintaining a positive relationship through these challenging years!

Here are 3 tips to help you effectively communicate with your teen:

1. Listen First, Speak Second

Your teen wants and needs to be heard; it’s necessary for healthy adolescent development. When your teen opens up to you, if at all possible give her your undivided attention and let her say everything she feels. When she finishes speaking, reflect the emotions and major content you heard her discuss. For instance, you might say, “It sounds like you’re sad that you weren’t invited to the party.” or “You seem really mad about the grade your teacher gave you.” Rather than giving your opinions, simply listen and let your teen know she is heard. The more your teenager feels she can confide in you without judgement, the better and more open your communication will be.

2. Give Advice when Asked

After your teen tells you about a problem he’s facing, you’re probably going to think of a million ways to solve it. But, your opinions are not helpful unless he asks for them. If he happens to ask what you think he should do, start by asking your teen what ideas he has about addressing the issue he presented. Teens who perceive themselves to be problem solvers are more likely to be safe and capable during teen years. If you have always solved your child’s problem, he may feel dependent on your thinking. Really encourage him to look for ideas within himself. Express your confidence in his capacities to sort things out. From time to time, if you do want to offer a tentative solution, give your honest, non-judgmental thoughts. This is not the time to lecture or point out deficits. Rather, it is a time to let your teen know you are on his side, you understand his emotions, and you want to help him through this.

3. Let Go of Expectations

You want to be close with your teen and you want to feel important to her. But during this stage, your relationship will not always look the way you hope. Enjoy the times your teen opens up, but don’t nag or pry when she doesn’t share everything with you. Schedule time to spend together, but don’t anticipate your teen wanting to hang out with you every day. Developing a group of peers during adolescence is an important task that helps with launching into adulthood. When it feels like she hates you, be patient and remember your child will not be a teenager forever!

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