Learn to Communicate Effectively with Your Teen Day 2

Day 2: Opening Up the Lines of Communication

Mother and Teen Daughter with Laundry Basket
Yellow Dog Productions/The Image Bank/Getty Images

What You’ll Learn Today

  1. Why open lines of communication are necessary.
  2. Guidelines you can use to help you open and keep open the lines of communication.
  3. What to do when opening the lines of communication seems impossible.

Why open lines of communication are necessary.

If you’ve ever read a parenting book, watched a parenting video or taken a parenting teens class, you’re familiar with the instruction: Open the lines of communication.

Opening the lines of communication with your teen is probably the most important thing you can do, and continually work on. Why? Because everything that has anything to do with good parenting is based on having the ability to communicate effectively with your teen and effective communication only happens when the lines are open.

Guidelines to help open and keep open the lines of communication.

  1. Focus on genuine relationship building, because that is what you are doing. Many times parents focus on ‘raising the child’ when we need to remember too that we are ‘raising an adult’, one that we hope to have a good relationship with later in our lives.
  2. Be an askable parent. Encourage your teen to come to you when they need help by reacting in a nonjudgmental way and helping them solve their problems.
  3. Find time to spend together. Be involved in something that your teen is involved in, even if it is just being a fan at their games. This will give you a common topic to talk about. Also, families that never spend any time together have a harder time communicating with each other. Get creative about scheduling family time. For instance, if dinners are taken up with sports games and practices, have breakfasts together.
  1. Use the time you have together to connect. For example, don’t sit at the dinner table reading today’s mail.
  2. Ask a mixture of specific and open ended questions. Listen, using your active listening skills, to the full answer before responding.
  3. Don't criticize your teen, even when he does something wrong. It's the behavior that is wrong or bad, not your teen.
  1. Let go of the power struggle. No one needs to be right in a conversation. Opinions are owned by the person who holds them, allow your teen to own their opinions and you’ll turn a potential power struggle into a conversation where you both win and learn a little bit more about each other.
  2. Keep up the positivity. Talk about what is good in your life, even if it is trivial. You’ll be modeling a positive attitude to your teen.
  3. Remember to praise when praise is due. We know that too much praise is not good either, but due praise is necessary to your teen’s self-esteem development.
  4. Admit when you are wrong. Communicating that you have made a mistake to your teen will build trust.

When opening the lines of communication seems impossible.

If the lines of communication have been lost or broken down with your teen, you can open them back up again by working on it a little at a time and not expecting too much too fast. Start by taking a good look at how you act and react when talking with your teen. As you go through the course, make a list of what you can change about your behavior. Try to change a little at a time, one or two of those things on your list. For instance, do some more active listening.

Once you have that habit down, try letting go of any power struggles. Then go on from there. You’ll notice as you change the way you communicate, so will your teen.

If you are still unable to talk with your teen, or things are deteriorating fast, talk with a professional and get some help. Start by calling your teen’s doctor or school guidance counselor and explaining what is happening and what you are trying to do. They will have a list of local services available to you.

Today’s Assignment: Mark the Calendar for Affirmative Reflection Time

Take your calendar down from the wall and schedule in some time for your family to spend together within this next week.

It can be done, even if it is one hour of card game playing with a favorite snack. During that time, say five nice things that have happened in the past week. For instance, you learned something new, you like your friend’s new hair cut, you’re looking forward to an upcoming event, etc. Don’t pressure anyone to converse back, just let it happen. Enjoy the time.

Before you finish, schedule the next time. Mark it down on the calendar where everyone can see it. You don’t have to do the same activity each time, just have five nice things to say about your life during the activity. If you keep this up your family will not only be benefiting from the time together, but also from your affirmative reflection on what has been going on around you. Modeling this positive behavior for your teen will get them to start looking for the positive in their own lives – and then you’ll get to hear about it.

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