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Increasing Communication Between Parent and Teenager

Communication with the teenager is extremely important, but many of the typical changes that occur during adolescence tend to interfere with the effectiveness and amount of interaction between parent and child. Although adults have much more experience in life than the adolescent, the teen is usually not aware of this fact or does not believe it; therefore, the advice, wisdom, and directions of parents are often not valued. Teens tend to spend more time in their room, with their peers, and away from family activities. Consequently, opportunities for communication diminish during this period of the child's life.

Because of these and other factors during adolescence, children do not confide in us as readily, and do not communicate their feelings as much as they did when they were younger. In addition, general communication about their activities - what they did the day before, where they are going, or whom they are going with - also decreases. Therefore, many parents of teenagers have problems talking to their children, giving them advice, knowing their true feelings, or explaining things to them. On the other hand, children may have difficulty talking to their parents, expressing opinions, discussing things that bother them, or relating their experiences. These difficulties with verbal interaction are generally termed lack of communication. Communication problems may be described in a variety of ways.

A parent might say:

  • My son is always on the phone, sleeping, out with his friends, or in his room. He never has time to talk to me.
  • Every time I try to explain something to my daughter or give her advice, she gets upset and storms out of the room.
  • When I talk to my child, he gives me a blank stare and is obviously not listening to anything I am saying.
  • My youngest one never tells me when something is bothering her. I never know how she is feeling. She keeps everything to herself.
  • If I ask my son a simple question like "How was your day?" he gets irritated and gives me a sharp answer. I can't even talk to him about simple things like his daily activities.

On the other hand, the adolescent might say:

  • They're always asking me questions. Where did you go? Who did you go with? Did you have fun? It's like a third degree. When my friends come over, my parents even ask them a bunch of stupid questions, too, like "Where do you go to school?" or "Where does your dad work?"
  • My parents don't understand me. They are living in another time period.
  • The only time my father talks to me is when I do something wrong or when he's trying to point out what I should do.
  • It seems as though every time I tell my parents what my opinion is or how I feel, they tell me how wrong I am or why I shouldn't feel that way.
  • Every time I ask my parents something, I get a lecture.
  • My mother is always talking and I can't get a word in. She asks me a question and then gives me the answer.

Communication problems are numerous and varied. Some of the things that interfere with effective communication with your child, and some suggestions that will increase the quantity and improve the quality of communication between you and your teenager, are discussed on the next page. By using some of these concepts, it should become easier for you to talk with your child, and the resulting verbal interaction should increase in frequency and grow more meaningful.


From Keys to Parenting Your Teenager by Don Fontenelle, Ph.D. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.

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