Communication Tips from a Teen Counselor
Communicating with teens can be tough!
Mark Gregston is a JPL author, radio host and director of Heartlight Ministries, a residential program for struggling teens. He recently wrote on his blog about a topic many of us need help with… communicating with our teens.
Please enjoy this excerpt of 8 Keys to Better Communication with Your Teen:
People were made to communicate and be in fellowship with one another, so when our need to connect is stifled or lacking, it creates within us a longing to engage.
The way that today’s teen communicates may have changed—they may talk more with their thumbs, and less with their mouths—but it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in connecting with you. Teens really do want parental involved in their lives; they just want it on their own terms.
So, if you’re interested in learning how to keep the lines of communication with your teen open, then keep reading…
Eight Keys to Better Communication:
- Watch your parenting style. These three styles are no longer effective once your child hits the teen years: the perfectionist, the authoritarian, and the judge. These three styles will shut down the lines of communication between you and your child faster than you can say, Bye, Felicia.
- Quit correcting them all the time. Your teen lives in an appearance and performance-based world, so, if the only thing they hear from you is constant correction, they’ll quickly tune out and miss out on the wise guidance that you can provide. Research shows that it takes four affirming statements to counter one negative statement, so, watch what you’re saying to your teenager and how you’re saying it.
- Spend more time listening than you do talking. We’ve all heard the phrase, God gave us two ears and one mouth—well, it’s true. Use them accordingly. When you listen to your teen first, they’ll be more likely to listen to you later.
- Determine to leave your conversations open-ended or leave your teen with a question. There are very few meaningful conversations can be wrapped up in one sitting, and only a handful of questions require immediate answers, so leave the door open for more. When the time arises, welcome them back with a friendly smile and the opportunity to engage in deeper discussion and a more meaningful connection.
- Toss the ball in their court. Ask them questions that make them think and reflect on the topic and issue at hand. Leave them with something that will stimulate a deeper thought.
- Keep the discussions about them and only share your opinions about a situation when they ask. Proverbs 18:2 tells us that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in his own opinions.” Mom and Dad, don’t be that person.
- Remember that every conversation doesn’t need to be a lesson. You can answer their questions, but be sure to leave room for your teen to learn and solve problems on their own.
- Sometimes silence is the not only the best response, but it’s the greatest answer. Again, Scripture reminds us that “even fools are thought to be wise and discerning, if they keep silent.”
Mom, Dad … your teens want to talk. They just don’t know how to because they’re being raised in a culture where it’s more about communicating with their thumbs than with their mouths. They live in a world where it’s more about presentation than content. More about appearance than the condition of the heart. You haven’t been replaced, you’ve been nudged out—not by a generation gap, but by technological influence that thrives on appearance and presentation. And your teens are consumed more by social constructs and defaults than by intentional ignoring. Your role is to break through this cultural influence and give them an example of what a deep and meaningful conversation is all about. So, you have to be intentional if you want to be more influential than what they are learning from their phones.
- Carrie Schuessler