Technically, effective communication occurs when the person sending the message makes it clear and easy to understand, and the person on the receiving end understands the message as the sender intended. In the real world, especially in families, this is not always easy to do. Parents often are busy with work demands, running the household, and taking care of responsibilities to family and friends. Teens are involved in the academic and social demands of school, after school and weekend activities, and spending time with friends. With so much going on, it is no surprise that many of us do not take the steps needed to communicate clearly and to listen carefully. This can lead to problems when talking to teens.
Parents and teens can do two things to reduce communication problems:
Talk more often. The more you talk with each other, the more you have the chance to share important messages. Good times to talk with your teen are before leaving for the office and school, during dinner, and on weekends. Try to plan at least one meal a day as a time when the family sits together and talks. Sometimes it does not matter what you talk about, just that you are talking to each other regularly.
Take extra time to share important messages. When you need to tell your teen something important, such as explaining the responsibilities of caring for a younger sister or brother, take the time to sit down with your teen and talk face to face. You also can write down the important details for your teen. Ask your teen to share with you what he understands your message to be. Your teen can use this same approach when he needs to share important messages with you.
Why is communication so important during the teenage years?
As teens get older, they will be spending more time away from parents and family. They will need to make decisions on their own. Teens also will be expected by others to take responsibility for their actions. Although teens are gaining more independence from their parents, they are not experienced and need continuing parental guidance. Being sensitive to your teen's level of maturity when offering guidance helps in building greater self-confidence.
you are helping your teen grow up to be a responsible adult.
When Jack turned 16 and received his driver's license, he wanted to use the family car for weekend activities. He and his mother discussed rules for using the car and how car privileges would depend upon Jack's showing responsibility. His mom told him he needed to fill the car with gas before bringing it home, and he needed to have it home at the time he had promised. Setting up these rules in advance helped Jack know what was expected of him when he used the car. Knowing the rules also would help Jack to accept the consequences if he fell short of obeying the rules.
You are helping your teen to figure out the kind of person she is becoming as she prepares for adult responsibilities.
Mary and her parents watched a television show about teens and sex. After watching the show, Mary and her parents discussed their views about teen sexuality and responsibility. Mary needed to know her parents' views about teen sexual behavior and to feel comfortable expressing her own views. Should she be faced with a difficult decision about her own sexual behavior, Mary would be more likely to make a good decision. She also is more likely to talk with her parents if there is an open line of communication.
You are helping your teen have better self-esteem.
Tim compares himself often to other kids at school. He frequently feels like a failure, since he does not do as well on tests as others and is second string on the basketball team. Tim's father has listened to Tim complain about not being as good as other kids and has expressed understanding of Tim's feelings. This usually helps Tim feel better. Tim's father also has been taking more time with Tim to do activities they both enjoy. Tim's father makes a special effort to make comments about things that Tim does well. Tim's father is helping Tim appreciate his own strengths and abilities.
You are offering your teen good role modeling in solving problems with other people.
Erin and her mother were out shopping one day when a salesperson was rude to them as they tried to return some clothes. Erin's mother calmly told the salesperson that she expected to be permitted to return the items and asked if a manager were present who could assist with the return. The salesperson responded in a more helpful fashion. Erin later asked her mother why she did not get angry at the salesperson. Her mother replied: "I was angry, but I have learned that I get better results when I stay calm and think about the best way to get the response I want to get from a person." Erin had the opportunity to both observe and discuss a good way to handle problems with other people.
You are helping your teen make important life decisions.
Henry is trying to decide on a college. He wants to pick the best one, but he is not sure how to do this. His parents talk with him about his future goals, about the colleges that have programs that interest Henry, and about colleges that the family can afford. They suggest that Henry call some of the colleges and arrange to visit the ones that are on the top of his list. They talk with Henry about other steps he can take to narrow his choices. His parents help Henry to figure out how to make good decisions, and they permit him to take the steps needed to make a good choice.
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