How to Communicate with your Teenager
Understanding how to communicate with your teenager is a skill that most parents learn as they go along, but it’s never a simple or straightforward task. We all remember what it was like being a teenager, but we seldom remember how we would have liked being talked to or communicated with. It is arguably even more difficult to grasp when the teenager is a foster child who perhaps hasn’t had the best experience communicating with adults. Being in the care system is challenging for a teenager, a time that is already difficult.
As a Foster Carer, you should understand that in any conversation there are two roles to be played – the listener and the speaker. For communication to work, you need to be able to play both roles. Here are some helpful tips to ensure your communication with your teenager is as effective as possible:
Think about the conversation…
Think about the conversation you want to have before you have it. If you want to communicate with your teenager, it’s important to think about what you really want to say and choose your words carefully, instead of just heading into the conversation without any preparation. If you want to tell them you’re upset of annoyed about something, you will need to try and pick the right moment. Having that conversation when they are tired or fed up, could maybe lead to an argument. If you just want a chat, doing so when they are in the middle of doing their homework or their favourite television programme will probably irritate and annoy them. Consider the purposes of the following types of conversations and the best times to have them.
Bonding conversations can be both short and sweet or long and involved, but the point of them is to enable you and the teenager to enjoy each other’s company. You can try and keep the pressure off by having these kinds of conversations while washing up, doing an activity together or out in the garden. Communication is what will bond you together, and can give your teen a chance to open up and tell you important things about themselves and their lives.
The important aspect is that you need to seize the opportunity when it arises. If you’re always too busy or have other important things to do when your teenager approaches you, you may miss the opportunity and if this happens too often the window will close.
Just have a chat…
A chat can be long or short, trivial or have hidden nuggets of important information. Just chatting with your teenager can be as much fun as chatting to a friend, and has as much hidden importance. Try and keep your chat light and happy – but don’t patronise them. Talk to them like an adult and they will start to respond to you on an adult level. Chat and gossip can help to bring you together and build mutual respect.
Respect is often a key aspect that foster teens in particular will feel is missing it their relationships with adults. They are expected to show respect for a number of adults, but often feel they have never been shown any. Building a relationship with them based on this will help you connect with them and communicate with them successfully.
Asking difficult questions…
You may find that there are times when you need to have serious conversations and ask difficult questions. If, for example, you feel like your teenager is lying to you or doing something they shouldn’t be, you might want to discuss it. In that case, it is better to take a straight approach, even though you still need to avoid making judgements.
Keep your conversation as neutral as possible, and just ask them to talk to you about it. Use phrases like:
- “Please tell me what is happening” or
- “I’d like to know more about this.”
Show them that you appreciate their honesty, as it could go a long way in developing an open dialogue. It may lead to them talking to you further the next time they are presented with a difficult situation.
We hope this blog has helped you with how to communicate with your teenager better. If you would like to continue reading, you might find this blog interesting: Good Guidance to Follow when Fostering Teenagers