In previous columns, we discussed how to avoid getting in to arguments with your teen and how to talk about challenging behaviour. This week, we focus on how to keep the lines of communication open. In the midst of busy lives and the constant distractions of technology, we can easily become isolated from each other. We know, however, that keeping a close, positive connection with your teenager is important in keeping them safe and helping them to make positive choices. It will also make it easier to have meaningful conversations about more difficult topics such as alcohol or drug use or sexual behaviour.
- Seize the moment. You don’t need to set aside a specific time to talk—look for those opportunities when you are naturally together such in the car or pottering around the kitchen
- Be positive and speak in a caring tone of voice. Express appreciation for something you have noticed about them and use positive language
- Actively Listen and engage. Try not to interrupt when your teen is speaking; let them express themselves fully and validate their feelings by saying things such as, “That must have made you feel (pleased, angry, frustrated)…”
- Use “I” messages when you respond. Begin with “I” and then respectfully state how you feel and why you feel that way. (“I was worried when you didn’t come home on time…I had no idea where you were) Be specific in what you want and don’t assign blame. Avoid “You” messages (“You never come home on time, pick up your clothes, play with your sister, etc.)
- Ask open-ended questions, often and casually about things they are interested in: music, sports, friends, movies; what they enjoyed doing in the past week; what they think about current events. Ask about school—what they enjoy and what they find difficult. Ask about their friends and encourage positive friendships
- Respect their right to have a different point of view, even if you disagree
- Encourage tens to tell you about problems they may be having without judging or lecturing
- Don’t offer solutions unless they ask. Listen and ask what options they are considering; express confidence in their ability to find solutions. Let them know that you will share your views if asked.
See www.loveparenting.ie for more information. We have shared a Tip Sheet from the Strengthening Families Programme www.sfpcouncilireland.ie/strengthening-families/ with more ideas on phrases that praise.
If you would like more information on the Strengthening Families Programme, please see http://sfpcouncilireland.ie/strengthening-families/. If you would like information on the delivery of programmes in Limerick, please contact Joe Slattery with the CSMT at firstname.lastname@example.org or 061-317688.