When we talk about adolescence there is always a comment like: “You can’t talk to them”, “no one understands them”, and so on. These comments make me a little sad. I think that they push teenagers away like weirdos and they are somehow “left out.”
When something is difficult, or not even difficult, but a bit unknown, the easiest way out is to criticize it, want to take it out, somehow point it out or put it aside and, deep down, we are all eager to be part of it: the adults (mothers, fathers, teachers) and young people. We all want to communicate and understand each other.
Four keys to improving family communication
So I’m going to tell you what aspects you can observe and take into account, before wanting to improve communication with adolescents.
Presence: It is essential to connect. In this way you let the other know that he is really important and that you are there for him.
Listens: Really listen, looking into your eyes, without judgment and without thinking about your answer or what you are going to say right after.
Model: You have stopped to think about your communication model. Aggressive, Passive, or Assertive? Sons and daughters learn from us and watch us all the time. This is very very very relevant and unfortunately we forget.
Point: Where do you start from? Think about what kinds of conversations you have with your teenage son or daughter. If you only talk to him to “lecture”, talk about your times or how you were as a teenager, tell him what is right or wrong or if, on the contrary, you manage to have a more fluid conversation (when the flute plays and you curras a lot) about their interests, experiences, etc.
Once you have reviewed these points and have analyzed how you are in each of them, now decide: what aspect would you like to improve?
Sometimes we want to communicate better with our sons and daughters, but really what we are saying is that we want them to listen to us, pay attention to what we say and leave us calm with our fears. From fear we are not going to communicate well. From there, we just look for confirmations and find excuses.
We want them to tell us: “No, calm mom, I’m not going to drink.” “Dad, don’t worry, I’m going to study and pass everything.” And sometimes they say it, for what? to leave us alone, which is just what we wanted.
Adolescents are independent and growing people
We forget that adolescents are independent people, growing, and we do not communicate with them as with “other people”. Already, they are not your friends, I know, but their needs are the same. Think about what leads you to communicate with other people: that you feel listened to, that there is no judgment or advice, that you perceive a connection of ideas, feelings, interests or tastes.
Okay, now that you have reviewed all of this in yourself, let’s find out what you can do in order to communicate with your teenager. Remember: all the previous part is essential so that what follows can be of use to you.
The key: generate common spaces of connection
Curiosity for what he does, listen, who he follows. You know, just like you saw “Pepa Pig” and “The Paw Patrol” now it’s time to know about youtubers, their music or TikTok.
Share time in something that can contribute to both of you. His hobbies and your hobbies. Rate and make proposals.
Support him with what he has difficulty. Do not solve it or rescue him. Give him your support and ask what he needs from you or how you can help him.
Reduced reviews. The criticisms we usually make of them are not “constructive” nor do they have much filter. Understand me, we can tell you if we don’t like something or put a limit, but I don’t talk about it. Nobody likes to be criticized like that happily (“how do you go to the street like that” “well, what paint you wear” “if you go painted like a door” …) and as our sons and daughters are, we think we have every right. Those criticisms damage and fixate on your self-esteem.
Use humor. That always unites and on top you have a laugh. Be witty and be careful with sarcasm, sometimes it is hurtful. Depending on your starting point, you will have to work more on one thing or another or train on certain skills. It is possible that in your own observation you have already detected elements to modify and you have to take action. That is the beginning of the road. If you change places, everything moves. And then work on the connection. That is the goal.
Are you clear about the start and the goal? It will help you a lot if you capture it somewhere and from all the points discussed, you design small steps to do. Put those modifications into practice and see what happens in communication with your adolescent son or daughter. Remember, you can work on it. Do not despair.
* Alma Mª Ors is an expert psychologist in childhood and adolescence
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.