We can all have trouble understanding one another, but especially young people and their parents. On one hand, it is normal for young people to seek and want privacy – on the other hand, we know the better parents are at communicating with their children, the better their child does in all things parents want them to stay away from – including tobacco, drugs, alcohol, risky sex, and violence.
Here are some tips we modified from the U.S. Department of Education about communicating with your young person:
- Listening is important! Avoid interruption and be in a place with no distractions. That means put away the cell phone! It will help you listen and keep your emotions even.
- Make yourself available so that your children can talk to you when they want to. Sometimes scheduling a regular time it is just the two of you can help.
- Be clear about your expectations. Saying that something “does not matter” or to do something “because I said so” might only create conflict.
- Try to not get overly emotional when your child opens up to you. If you feel a strong emotion coming on, it can help to move to a different room and take some deep breaths first. If you are always upset or overly angry when your child opens up to you, they might not open up to you again.
- Good conversation topics are things that your child wants to talk about. For example, your child’s hobbies, even if they do not really interest you.
- Finally, talk to your child with calmness and respect. People often respond better to a calm voice and clear explanation than an angry tone. You can say the same thing but actually have them listen instead of turning off. Sometimes it can help to instead say, “Would it be ok if I tell you what I think?” This makes the next thing you say feel less like a lecture. It also puts them in control of getting information when they want it. If they say no, try again a different time.
Lastly, if you are reading this and trying your best, you are parent who cares about your child! Congratulations! We know young people do SO much better when they have supportive parents trying their best. It is hard, but it is worth it!