By Teen Coach: Melanie Black
Teen communication is often considered an oxymoron, but it doesn’t really have to be that way.
Does this sound like something you have experienced?
Your teenage daughter is taking incredibly long to get ready for the day (again), but you need her to hurry because you want to get to work on time. You’re thinking, “Why is she so inconsiderate? She is being so disrespectful!” Meanwhile, she has locked herself in the bathroom, analyzing her physical appearance. She’s thinking, “I can’t go to school looking like this.” You pound on the door and yell at her to hurry because you have to leave. She yells, “Leave me alone! You don’t understand!” Finally she is ready except she is now giving you the silent treatment. Also, you now have to drive her to school because she has missed her bus. You are late for work, stressed out, and wondering why she won’t listen to you as well as why does she have to fight with you about everything.
Why is communicating with teens so hard?
Scientists believe that the rational part of a teens brain is not fully developed and doesn’t fully develop until they are around age 25. Research has shown that the adult and teen brains operate differently. It turns out that the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain adults use most, is not fully developed in teens. This is the part of the brain behind your forehead and it controls good judgement, memory, organization, and mood. Teens mostly use the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain. In teen’s brains the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala is still developing, which is why they appear so emotional at times. Have you ever asked your teen, “What were you thinking?” Well, they were feeling more than they were thinking. As they get older there is a shift and they start to use the prefrontal cortex more.
What can parents do?
- Discussing the consequences of their actions can help teens become more aware of the facts that surround a situation. Thus, helping them be more responsive rather than reactive.
- Let your teen know that they are strong and capable. Remind them that they are in control of many factors to do with the situation. Help them remember a tough time that had a good result.
- Know the things that are important to your teen and take an interest. You don’t have to start listening to the newest Taylor Swift album but when you take an interest in those things it makes your teen feel like they are important to you.
- When your teen comes to you with a problem simply listen. Ask them if they want advice rather than giving it right away. It’s hard because parents have a need to want to fix their child’s problems or place blame. However, this can make teens shut down and stop communicating in the future. The goal should be to create an emotionally safe relationship where you can both effectively communicate with each other.
Building Empathy – Teamwork!
Understand that empathy is a skill that your teen has to develop. When you are empathetic to them it will help them learn to be empathetic as well. Thus, helping them build a foundation of Emotional Intelligence.
Which one of the strategies listed above can you try for the next couple of weeks to help foster effective communication between you and your teen?