Want to know How to Talk to Teenagers?
We talk to Louise Klar, School Counsellor from Genesis Christian College
In my role as school counsellor, I have the privilege of listening to and being able to talk to teenagers every day. This has given me a little bit of insight into their world and what they need and want in relation to communication. I have learnt that quite often it differs to the “don’t talk to me” message they may often give off. To be honest when young people present with different issues, most of the time they just want to be heard and accepted by you. To me this makes a lot of sense, as each of us are wired for intimacy and feel better about who we are and our place in the world when our relationships are safe, healthy and happy. The best way to connect with a teenager is to listen to them.
Healthy communication can start from the minute your little one comes into the world. The foundation of good communication you lay as a baby, toddler and child will preface the kind of communication you will have with your teenager. Some of these timeless principles will translate from each stage of your parenting. The key is to be fully present and available in your teenagers’ life as this primary relationship is the basis from which they will learn about healthy communication. I believe the best way to teach a child or teenager about communication is in how you model it in your own relationships, especially with them.
Here are 5 simple keys for modelling healthy communication to your teenager:
The art of connection – create space to communicate.
In our fast paced, screen centered life styles we can easily loose valuable time to connect with one another. If this is the case it is important to become intentional and creative in creating space for communication and connection whether it comes naturally or not. Some suggestions include; doing activities of interest or normal every day activities together, special days out, dad/daughter & mum/son dates, play times, celebration of milestones, meals together, a daily recap conversation lying In bed, turning the TV (and other devices) off and tuning in to them through conversation, activity, fun and humour. Thus creating connection, a time to practice healthy communication skills, friendship, understanding and memories.
Rules of engagement
Whether the communication with your teenager is good or poor, engaging them is half the battle when it comes to communication. Therefore choose the most appropriate time and place to communicate, especially the important things. Some rules of engagement include; be present and avoid distractions, talk less and really listen to and affirm their feelings, when they know you are listening they will open up and communication can begin. Other really important yet simple keys are to make meaningful eye contact and have an interested and calm tone of voice and body language.
Stay calm – respond rather than react.
Another way to engage your teenager and improve open communication is to stay calm in moments of shock and defiance. Responding with calm, neutral, mild or nonchalant body language, facial expressions and tone of voice will help to keep the window of communication open with your teenager as they are more likely to keep coming back to you if they know you will not react with panic or negative emotion. In these moments stay present, listen and respond to what they need. When you need to vent go to your spouse, a friend or a professional.
“Trust is built with consistency”- Lincoln Chafee
This quote could not be truer when it comes to teenagers. In order for trust to build in your relationship it pays to be consistent and clear in your communication. Keep rules, expectations and instructions simple, to a minimum and consistent i.e. follow through with what you say and if you can’t then reconsider saying it. Aim to be assertive in your communication and resolving conflict, i.e. to be proactive, truthful, clear, upfront, calm, respectful, concise and rational in communicating what you want and need and allowing your teenager to do the same.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart”- Nelson Mandela.
Spend time understanding your teenager and their language. Learn about their personality, gender specific communication style, love language, strengths, likes/dislikes, interests, passions and dreams. This will communicate to them that are valuable and significant.
If I leave you with anything it would firstly be to talk less and listen, listen, listen. Secondly, most often your style of communication is also how your teenager will most likely learn to communicate. Therefore if you are unhappy with your teenagers’ way of communicating, then I encourage you to learn about, practice and model healthy ways of communication and over time you will notice a change.
Author: Miss Louise Klar
GENESIS CHRISTIAN COLLEGE
This article was published in Issue 9 of our print magazine, April/May 2015.