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Building Strong Communication Between Parents and Teens

Aug 17, 2007
Communication is difficult to maintain as your child reaches the adolescent years but this is the most important time to keep the lines of communication open and strong. So what can you as a parent of a teenager do to make sure you don't lose this all important connection between you and your teen? Here are a few helpful hints you can use to make sure that when you do communicate with your child that you don't end up doing more harm than good.

First off, it's important to let your teen know that you're interested in what they have to say. You can communicate this by your eye contact, body language and your voice inflection. In other words how you speak and how you listen are way more important than the words you use. Now you might find this hard to believe but it actually is true. Yes, those who study the way we communicate say that over 90% of our nonverbal behavior such as our facial expressions, body position, eye contact and tone of our voice determines not only how well our message is received but what message will be received. That leaves less than 10% that goes toward the actual words that we use.

Just think of the implications of these figures when having a conversation with your teenager. If you're telling Johnny that you're listening and care about what he has to say while at the same time writing your bills, answering the phone or waving and saying hello to the neighbor across the yard, do you think he's going to believe your words? Or what about telling your teen daughter that you value her opinion while rolling your eyes and shaking your head sideways with your hands on your hips? What message do you think will actually get across to your teen?

Now, if you really are concerned about keeping the communication between you and your adolescent healthy and strong try out these tips for better communication.

Pay Attention To Nonverbal Communication
Remember, the words you say are not as important as how you say them. Keep this in your mind at all times while communicating with your teen and your conversations should vastly improve with this one tip alone.

Remove Yourself From Distractions
The next most important thing you can do is remove yourself from other distractions when having a conversation with your teen. Don't answer the phone, stop whatever chore your doing at the time, turn off the TV and look directly at your teenager while the two of you talk and have a real conversation. This let's them know that they are important enough for you to devote your time and focus to them and what they have to say.

Pay Attention To Eye Contact
Use eye contact effectively. Don't stare constantly as they will end up thinking you are trying to find out something and they will feel uncomfortable and want to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Just look at them naturally while they speak or even while you're speaking and look away occasionally for a moment and then look back again.

Watch Your Body Language
Watch those body movements that send the wrong message to your teenager. Control the eye rolling, hands on hips, stern jaw, crossed arms or other body behavior that may be sending a message that you really didn't intend to send. These can break down the lines of communication faster than anything else.

It does takes effort on your part to make sure the communication between you and your adolescent goes smoothly and remains strong throughout the teen years. Just continue to always show interest and respect for your teen and you will be pleasantly surprised by the response you receive in return. When your teenager knows you are truly listening they are more apt to turn to you in their times of need. What more could you want?
About the Author
Marsha Beslic M.S. is a licensed therapist and parenting coach. She has helped hundreds of families over the course of her 20-year career. Her goal is to help parents and youth work through difficult times so they can return to the happier moments of family life. Check out Marsha's website at TroubledTeenSolutions
for her free "Teen Parenting Guide."offering resources for parents.
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