Remember when your kids thought you knew everything and looked to you for guidance? Did that change when they became teenagers? Although they’ve probably figured out by now you aren’t perfect, you can still be the person your teenagers look to for guidance. All it takes is improved communication. These tips for improving family communication will help.
Accept reality. It’s time for a reality check: Your influence wanes as your child gets older. That, by the way, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes your teen doesn’t want to communicate with you. Everyone has those days, even you. Don’t nag. Love.
Listen. Teens love to talk. Do you love to listen? Teens are aware enough to know when you’re going through the motions. A good listener lets others speak. A good listener talks about the other person and his or her interests. Many good books on listening are available. Read one if you struggle with this aspect of communication.
Think before you speak. WAHM.com, a website created by work-at-home moms for moms, points out a common cure for saying the wrong thing. It's called thinking first. A few harsh words can destroy months of positive communication. Remember, you’re the adult.
Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer. These open-ended questions are especially effective if it’s something that interests them.
Include your teen. Even if you know your son or daughter probably doesn’t want to participate in the next family event, invite him or her anyway. The key word here is invite. Don’t nag.
Use praise. Humans have a simple desire to be recognized and appreciated. If you look for reasons to praise your child, you’ll be likely to find them. They don’t need to accomplish perfect grades, score the winning touchdown, cure cancer or establish world peace to merit praise. Start with little things and always keep the words thank and you nearby.
Discuss the tough subjects. If you don’t discuss sex, drugs, alcohol and peer pressure with your teen, someone else will. In fact, there are plenty of disreputable influences that will be happy to talk your teen into doing something sketchy or dangerous.
Be honest. Your teen must trust you in order for communication to flourish. It’s OK, for example, for you to check his or her Facebook page or inspect e-mail and text messages, but you should say beforehand that that’s your plan; otherwise, you’ll be looked upon as the sneaky enemy who doesn’t respect boundaries.
Always be available. HealthyChildren.org points out the importance of always being available. The most important lesson that can be learned about communicating with your children is that when they want to talk, listen. Teens who know a parent will listen will let a parent’s wisdom and experience be their guide.