Tips for parents, guardians to talk with teenagers efficiently

Central Illinois Newsday

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Between hormones changing and testing limitations, teenagers are deciphering a new world and their place in it. For parents and guardians of teens, it can present challenges when trying to communicate.

Lyndsie Gravemier, a program manager at Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois, Inc. said Tuesday, “Topics are no longer about a favorite toy or refusing to take a nap – teens are starting to encounter tricky issues with real consequences and parents have strong feelings and concerns about how their teens will navigate them.”

Gravemier provided tips for parents/guardians looking for guidance on how to talk to teens effectively:

  • Avoid eye contact – This goes against everything we’ve been taught about effective listening and communication, but it is true. If you and your teen are having a serious, awkward, or confrontational discussion, staring at each other is only going to heighten those negative emotions. Some of the best serious talks happen in the car, or while engaged in another simple activity, like walking or cooking dinner. This takes some emotional pressure off of both the parent and the teen, but the general message will still get through.
  • Listen without reacting – It is difficult as a parent to listen to your teen whine, complain, or describe a plan that you’re sure will end in disaster. But, every time we react emotionally and jump in with a judgment or correction – “That’s a horrible idea…” or “I told you that would happen…” we’ve effectively ended the conversation and our teen becomes less and less likely to open up in the future. Instead, challenge yourself to listen to the teen until they are done talking, with only an occasional “hmm” or neutral question to encourage them to keep going.
  • Acknowledge their feelings – Even if you disagree with your teen’s actions or reasoning, their emotions are still true for them. Statements like, “I can tell that you’re very frustrated about this…” show that you’re listening without necessarily agreeing. You can also model how to share feelings by calmly sharing your own, “I’ll admit I felt concerned about your future when you shared that you were failing math.” They can’t disagree with how you feel, either.
  • Problem-solve together – Once you’ve listened to your teen’s point of view, try to reach a solution together instead of telling them exactly what they need to do. Identify your non-negotiable family rules or structure, and then figure out together potential workarounds. This will help strengthen your teen’s problem-solving skills and help them have more buy-in into the solution.

For help: Call Lyndsie at (309) 369-2335 or lgravemier@goodwillpeo.org

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