As an international school that is home to students of varying ages who study different curriculums, we know raising a teenager is no easy mission. Adolescence is definitely a turbulent period, with raging hormones and a strong dependence on their still under-developed amygdala leading to some poorly thought out decisions and impulsive behaviour.
During this stage, children often have a love-hate relationship with their parents, but there’s no doubt that they need extra support and understanding from them. Here are four parenting tips to help you communicate with your teenager in the most nurturing way possible:
- ‘Listen’ to your teenager supportively, even when they don’t talk
Teenagers often have a lot of bottled up emotions and angst that eats away at them. Even if your child seems moody, or doesn’t seem to want to to talk, there’s a lot they communicate even when they are not talking. Watch out for non-verbal communication cues, pay fine attention to body language and especially to the words they are not saying. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
- When they do talk, offer understanding, not judgement
Teenagers don’t usually open up easily to their parents, and have an in-built need to keep things from them, given that they are at a stage they are trying to become more independent. This usually results in a lot of issues with authority, with children often defying their parents or talking back rudely. Parents need to understand that children are going through a difficult and confusing time. You need to ignore their heated arguments and tone, and look past that to understand that they need your love. Listen to them with an open mind and don’t judge them for what they say.
- Encourage decision-making
While their pre-fontal cortex isn’t exactly fully developed yet, our teenagers still have to continue to make decisions on a day to day basis. Since they are particularly prone to taking impulsive decisions and hasty judgments, as a parent you need to exert a calming influence over them, encourage them to take a step back and rethink things. Backward planning is a great technique you can teach your child to visualize the end goal and plan their actions backward.
- Make communication a two-way street
Communication is always a two-way street. If you feel your child is stone-walling you or not sharing his or her life with you enough, ask yourself how much your child knows about your life. While sharing great examples of exemplary behaviour from your childhood is something every parent does, comparisons like these often belittle your child. Instead, think back to your teenage years- was there a struggle or two you faced? Did you do something you were not proud of and now regret? Let your child learn from your mistakes and not just your triumphs. You can also keep talking to your child about your challenges at work and how you go about them. Keep it real!
Slammed doors and long silences can be a thing of the past, with these communication tips to help you reach out to your teenager. If things get too hard, or you feel you need some support, don’t hesitate to talk to our school psychologist and counselors.