A study of 200 teenagers (13-19) in 2018 found out that many of them are afraid to talk to their parents. Many said their parents want to talk, give orders but never listen. For some of them, they chat with their parents about mundane things. They do not talk about issues that bother them. One of them said, “I cannot talk to my parents about my boyfriend/girlfriend, they are going to be so mad at me.
Another said, “My parents never really talked with me when I was younger and they suddenly are interested now that I am older. Seems pretentious to me. They are not interested, they are just curious”. Others said their parents overreact about small matters- they are worried about how they will feel about serious concerns.
From the study – children/ teenagers want to talk with their parents but, sometimes, it seems impossible. They prefer talking with their friends and classmates because those people are always ready to listen. And give advice which in the end may not be very beneficial.
Parents have complained that their teenagers are too secretive and prefer to be on their phones but, we must understand that communication does not happen overnight; it takes time and lots of effort.
The most effective way to develop an effective communication pattern is to talk and talk and talk. Talk about anything and everything. This pattern is established first in Children before they become teenagers because a teen you never really spoke to as a child might believe that you are not interested in his life but curious. Although it is not impossible to develop a relationship with your teenager, it can be difficult and frustrating but, it is not a time to give up.
In this phase of their life- teenagers are making difficult and life-changing decisions ranging from friends to choice of institutions and course of study, sex, career, etc. They need guidance to make the right decisions which they cannot get from friends but parents and mentors.
Here are a few ways to develop a communication pattern with your teen;
- Start now: The best time to develop a communication pattern with your child is when they are children. But if you have been too busy or ignorant of that fact, it is not too late- Start today!
It might seem weird to your teen that you are suddenly talking to them and, they might want to block it off. Don’t be discouraged, it’s going to be alright with time.
- Listen: Teenagers want you to listen to them rather than talk and give advice. They want to confide in you about everyday challenges, including school, friends, dating, teachers, etc. But they need you to listen, not talk and give orders.
Teenagers always want to explain why they did what they did and, they feel it’s right. Now is the time for you to calm down and make them see reasons why what they did is wrong.
Listen to even the little things they have to say about their school, friends, teachers, etc. If you are not listening to the little things they have to say, they feel you will not listen to the critical issues. They will prefer to tell it to someone else that will listen to them, and sadly, this might be the wrong person.
As children develop into teenagers, they go through a lot that might be difficult to express. Parents, when they begin to talk to you, you need to listen to their emotions in between the lines and ask questions that will enable them further to open up. Bear in mind that this is not the time to get angry about shocking things.
Sometimes, they ask indirect questions to see how you will react when they eventually ask the direct questions.
- Involve them in decision making: Talk about your day too, tell them about that crazy boss, that deadline, that person that did something you are grateful for, etc. Let them understand that problems are not peculiar to them, and you go through issues that you are very willing to share.
Ask them about their opinion on a decision you are about to make. Ask if you should take that job or attend that program. From doing these things, teenagers believe that you trust them enough to make certain decisions, and you believe in their judgment. They understand that their opinions are valid.
- Support their dreams: Teenagers are making many decisions and are battling with their self-esteem; they need to know that someone is cheering them on in their walk of life. Let them know that you are their best pal and number one fan. Support their dreams, tell them their ambitions are valid and, you are available to support them all the way.
If they write, read their works and assist them in promoting them (you can contact us to do that for you). If they draw, buy their artwork to reward them for a job well done. When you are their best pal, they are vulnerable and, they will open up if they have any issues.
When they eventually open up, Let them understand that all they are going through is valid and normal, show empathy, and help them recognize that you are down to help them all the way.
Most importantly, pray for them- they need it (now) than ever before. Here is a book by my friend and mentor, Tom Ekpo, to help teen parents and coaches understand the importance of guided prayers. It also contains prayers for teenagers by parents and teen coaches.