Advice on how to talk to your teen

In a week long series, parent coach and teen mentor EILEEN KEANE HALY, looks at issues facing teenagers. Today she looks at communication and why it is key to a good child/ parent relationship
Advice on how to talk to your teen

Teens have a habit of acting like they are not listening to you... but they do listen. Be careful with your words. Picture: Stock

“THE single biggest problem with communication, is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I remember a friend telling me many years ago: “It was like she walked up the stairs and came down a different child when she became a teenager”.

Did that scare me, you bet it did. But four teenagers later I do not believe it always has to be like that. Will we all struggle at times? Absolutely yes, that is a given.

In my experience we need a lot of patience and understanding and the ability to realise a lot of teenagers behaviour is all about them and nothing to do with us, so try not to react.

When my eldest started secondary school, she came home one day ranting and raving like I had never heard her before. She was behaving in a way I honestly did not recognise and it freaked me out a little to be honest. I called a friend of mine (with older kids) and explained what had happened. Her advice was; She is 13, in a new school, surrounded by new people. She is trying to dress right, speak right, act right and just try to fit in, it is not easy and it really can be exhausting. She is obviously very emotional and struggling with all of the changes. Try to remember these outbursts are nothing to do with you. She needs to be able to vent somewhere and you will always be her ‘go to’ person, as no matter what she says to you, she knows you will always love her.

Try to take a few deep breaths, let her off and when she calms down, try to have a chat.

This was such great advice, and so very true. When we spoke later, she told me she was really struggling and finding it so hard to fit in. She asked me could we organise to meet up with her friends from primary school. I think she really needed to feel herself with the people who really knew her and accepted her for who she was. There were a few more ups and downs but she got through them and she knew she could come to me if she needed to. She got through these first few turbulent months and ended up loving secondary school.

My advice is do not react, breathe and plan a chat when your teen calms down and maybe when you calm down too. 

Listen to him/her, without interruption, do not take it personally, try to remember what you struggled with when you were their age, give them a hug and let them know you will always be there for them, let them know that although you may not like their behaviour, you will always love them. I think this works both ways, they may not always like our behaviour but they will always love us.

Many teens will spend a lot of time in their bedrooms and maybe not communicate at all. This can be very frustrating and very upsetting. I would suggest you try to get together for dinner when at all possible, without phones, theirs and yours. This is so important as phones will shut down any chance of communication with each other. Try to pick topics of conversation that they have an interest in. Allow them their point of view (even if you don’t agree with it), it is so important for them to believe they are growing up and that their opinions matter.

It does not matter what form of communication you use, just don’t stop trying. 

Teens have a habit of acting like they are not listening to you, treating you like a broken record! But believe me they do listen. Be careful with your words.

If you find it impossible to talk to them, text them. If that does not work, write to them. Honestly, anything that works for you and your teen is ok. They may act like they do not need us, that we have no idea what they are going through, but they do. I think many teens believe we, their parents, were never teens - but we were and believe it or not, a lot has not changed. They feel the same insecurities as many of us did. They will struggle with friendships as many of us did. They will want to be more popular, smarter, better at sport etc, just as many of us did. They will struggle with peer pressure as I’m sure many of us did. Try to remember, who did you take your worries out on? If you were like me then you probably took them out on your parents too.

You will get through these sometimes turbulent times but always remember you are the most important person in your kids life. 

I know it may not seem like it at times but it is true. I work with hundreds of teens and I have yet to meet a teenager who does not want a good open relationship with their parent. Hang in there and enjoy the experience!

Eileen Keane Haly
Eileen Keane Haly

About the author:

Eileen Keane Haly, is the Director of jumpstartyourconfidence.com and author of The Parent. Eileen is a qualified Parent Coach, Kids Confidence Coach and Teenage Mentor, with a background in child psychology.

Most of her professional life has been spent gathering information about how our younger generation work, how they deal with difficult situations, how social media is affecting them socially and emotionally, how their school life, social life and home life impact on their everyday experiences.

She has recently published her first parenting book called The Parent which can be purchased on her website www.jumpstartyourconfidence.com.

You can also follow Eileen on her Instagram page jumpstartyourconfidenccork and Facebook page.

Tomorrow: Acceptance and strengths.

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