10 Communication Mistakes that Discourage Teens from Talking

These communication mistakes will prevent your teen from talking to you.
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Open communication is an essential part of any quality relationship. But when you're parenting a teenager, communication gets complicated.

Many parents’ attempts to get their teen to talk can backfire. Instead of encouraging teens to talk, communication mistakes can prevent teens from opening up. Avoid these common communication mistakes that could discourage your teen from talking to you:

1.  Minimizing the Situation

A bad hair, a cancelled date, or a problem with friends can seem like an emergency to your teen.

Although you may be dealing with much more serious issues, don’t minimize the impact that your teen’s problems have on her life. 

Avoid saying things like, “Get over it,” or “It’s not that big of a deal.” Minimizing the situation will reinforce to your teen that you can't possibly understand what she's going through.

2. Supporting Your Teen’s Arch Enemy

When your teen tells you she’s upset about someone else’s behavior, avoid jumping in to justify or explain the other person’s behavior. Saying something like, “Well your teacher probably has to raise her voice to get you to listen,” will frustrate your teen even further. Instead of supporting your teen’s arch enemy, use reflective listening to show that you're invested in hearing her side of the story. 

3. Responding with Sarcasm

Although humor and gentle teasing do have a place in healthy relationships, sarcasm can be hurtful. If your relationship with your teen is already strained, avoid sarcastic responses altogether.

Even if you mean to be funny, it may be perceived as harmful. Sarcasm should be used sparingly, even when you have a healthy relationship with your teen.

4. Invalidating Your Teen’s Feelings

Teens can be quite dramatic at times, and often, their emotional responses don’t make sense to adults. Comments like, “You shouldn’t get so upset,” or “It doesn’t make sense to get this angry over something so small,” will only discourage your teen from sharing her feelings with you.

Even if you don’t understand your teen’s emotions, you can still validate your teen’s feelings.

5. Making the Conversation About You

Turning the discussion around to make the conversation about you isn’t helpful. Although there is a time and a place to explain your experiences, avoid lecturing or comparing your life to your teen’s circumstances. Saying things like, “Do you know how rough I had it as a kid?” when your teen is sharing her problems will likely end the conversation.

6. Passing Immediate Judgment

Expressing disapproval too early in the conversation will only isolate your teen. Focus on hearing your teen’s side of the story before sharing your opinion. Only once you’ve heard what she has to say should you express your concern.

Use “I” statements to express your thoughts. For example, say “I wonder what would have happened if you had talked to your friend directly about that?” or “I think that talking to your teacher about your grade could be helpful.” Avoid using sentences that start with “You should have…” because they will only evoke defensive reactions.

7. Showing Shock and Horror

Teens often do and say things for shock value. Whether your teen shows up with purple hair, or she tells you a horrifying story to get your reaction, don’t respond by showing your horror. Instead, respond in a calm manner. Showing shock and horror will only encourage your teen’s attention-seeking behavior to continue.

8. Solving the Problem for Your Child

It’s hard to see your child suffer with a problem. However, if you solve your teen’s problems for her, she won’t learn how to solve problems on her own. Jumping in solving the problem may not be what your teen needs.

Instead, allow your child to vent her feelings and then ask if she would like some help solving the problem. If she wants your help, problem-solve together and use it as an opportunity to sharpen her problem-solving skills.

9. Blaming Your Teen

Telling your teen that something is her fault will only add fuel to the fire, especially at the beginning of the conversation. Although it’s important to help your child take responsibility for her behavior, blaming her will stop the conversation short.

Avoid saying things like, “Well, that wouldn’t happen if you weren’t so rude all the time.” Instead, ask questions that promote further discussion such as, “If you could do it over again, would you do anything differently?” Help her accept personal responsibility and avoid telling her that she’s to blame for the entire problem

10. Not Being Supportive of Your Teen’s Big Ideas

Teens often have big ideas that don’t seem that realistic. Although it’s important to avoid encouraging your teen to live in a fantasy world, there are steps you can take to still show support for your teen’s big ideas.

If your child says, “I want to go on a trip around the world when I’m older,” don’t say, “You’d better be rich someday if you think you can afford to do that.” Instead, show curiosity and ask questions such as, “How much do you think that would cost?” or show support by saying, “Wow, that would be a lot of fun to see different parts of the world.” Reacting in a supportive manner can encourage the conversation to continue.

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