Last Friday night, my teen daughter and I watched as Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. For too many parents, talking to teenagers can feel like walking on a tightrope (minus a safety tether). How can you avoid this feeling and find a connection with adolescents?
Here are some suggestions to help keep your feet on solid ground:
- Calm your body. If your heart is racing and your gut is churning, you may need to take a few deep breaths before proceeding to communicate with your teenager.
- Be present and tune in to your teenager’s inner world. You hear and see what she’s doing, but really listen and think about what she may be experiencing inside. Too often we misread clues: I’ve mistaken anxiety and fear for obstinance.
- Maintain your own emotional balance. Your excessive emotional reaction can incite communication chaos and a rigid cold reaction won’t promote a healthy connection.
- Pause before speaking or acting. This might save you from impulsively putting a parental foot in the mouth.
- Face your fear. During the pause consider if the anger and irritation you feel is driven by your own fear and not your teenager. Sometimes our parental fears are irrational.
- Show empathy. Try to see the situation from your teenager’s point of view. Can you sense his intentions and imagine what something means in his mind?
Maybe it’s less about what our teenagers bring to the table and more about how we respond. We have little control over the former and most control over the latter.
What helps you communicate with your teenager?
What are your challenges?