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How to Communicate With Teenagers 
 
by Kirsten Lasinski May 19, 2005

Employing a few key ideas can make communicating with the teenagers in your life easier and more effective.

It is Possible

Teenagers. They eat all the food in the house, talk on the phone for hours, and every time you ask them to clean up their rooms,look at you as if you’ve just sprouted horns . They can be terse, uncommunicative, and leave you feeling as if they only keep you around for your credit card and your car, and yet children need loving input from the adults in their lives during their teenage years more than at almost any other time. While communicating with teenagers may feel like navigating a minefield, keeping certain principles in mind will go a long way toward smoothing the road.

"The first duty of love is to listen" – Plato.

Everyone, it seems, is telling your teenager what to do. Teachers, coaches, employers, and even friends are instructing your teenager every moment of the day. How can you add your voice to this choir without sounding like a drill sergeant?

The first key is to listen to your adolescents. Really listen to what they have to say, even if you disagree. Allow them to express their feelings safely, without the fear of you jumping down their throat. Listening to teenagers shows them that you respect them as individuals and care about what they have to say. It also lends credibility to what you want to say to them and makes them more likely to listen to you. If you want them to listen to you, set the example by listening to them. Creating an atmosphere of safe self-expression for your teenager is the first step toward having a relationship of open communication.

Let’s Get This Straight

Communicating effectively with teenagers requires learning the fine art of negotiation. Establish some simple ground rules with your teenager when it comes to the way you converse:

  • Treat each other with respect.
  • No name calling or sarcasm allowed
  • Listen carefully to the other person’s point of view

Your teen may also have some ground rules to add to this list. Let your teenager know that you want to be fair. You may want to write out the rules you agree upon together and keep them posted somewhere visible, like the refrigerator. If you come to an impasse with your teenager, ask him or her to help you brainstorm solutions to the problem that both of you can agree on. Help your teenager feel like he or she has a voice in your home.

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