Communicate with teenagers, mission impossible?
Many parents are frustrated with the level of communication with their adolescent children. They feel distant and confused by the behavior of their children and they think, why do not you give me more than a word for an answer - yes, no, I do not know? Does it look like if I say white, she says black? Why are they always in a bad mood?
Adolescents, for reasons of their development, are always looking for ways to separate themselves from their parents' generation. It can be with your style of dress, your haircut, your manner of speaking or your attitude. Sometimes, this search can disturb parents or create problems in the family. This can happen when teens are trying out ideas or actions that are different or conflict with the values and norms of the family.
Obviously, in those cases, communication with adolescents may be more difficult or seem impossible. But, if parents understand more about the adolescent's development and know the reasons why they have behavior that seems conflicting, they will be able to adapt their way of talking with the adolescent, increasing the percentage of the message that the adolescent will listen to.
The perspective of adolescents
The main problem of communication between parents and adolescent children is the different perspective between them. Teenagers are still growing and changing. They have a limited life experience. In some cases, they may have opinions on various topics or ways of living that have caught their attention, but have no idea of their functioning or meaning. Normally, their interest in certain matters is motivated more by how they feel than by the real meaning of that particular issue.
Adolescents have a very rich inner life. This part of their life includes what they think about who they are, how they feel about themselves, and what they think about the relationship they have with those around them (family, friends, members of their immediate environment, etc.). The intrapersonal themes revolve around internal dialogue that they keep with themselves about how they live their lives and about their most intimate thoughts and desires.
Adolescents, as they grow up and become more independent, become more and more immersed in relationships that they have established outside the family's borders. And all this is done with less context information, less life experience and more egocentrism, due to the normal evolutionary processes involved in adolescence. This implies that they decide what they will do differently than their parents would.
Therefore, parents should not compare their teen's actions with what they would have done if they had been in the same situation because, simply, it would not be a fair comparison. Instead of this, after witnessing the decision the teen has made, they should try to understand the behavior. Identify the most important ideas and actions, the meaning that the adolescent has given them, the situation in which they have presented themselves and the role played by the values, objectives, perceptions, ideas, feelings and rules of the adolescent in their decision-making about those ideas and actions.
Only then will parents be able to understand the mental processes that led him to act as he did and can guide him to make more informed decisions in the future. More importantly, this process allows parents to see how the adolescent is maturing and how his awareness of himself and the world around him is growing.
Errors and bad decisions in adolescence
Teens will sometimes make mistakes and make bad decisions. This is something that can be expected and that is part of the process. As they mature and spend more time away from us, their decision making will take them from time to time down the wrong path. In this sense, it is essential that the parents develop a healthy tolerance to decisions Take your teenage children, as this will allow them to learn to guide themselves.
Obviously, if the adolescent or another person is going to suffer some kind of damage or if the adolescent is doing something that is far from the norms and values of the family, in that case the parents should intervene and give a little nudge so that rectify The process of exploration that takes place in adolescence can not entail harming oneself or one's neighbor or provoking a family schism. However, if the adolescent is not harming himself, his neighbor, or is causing a family schism, parents can let their teenage son pull a little rope to find his own way.
The warning to be made in this position, when there is no dangerous, harmful or life-threatening activity in any way, is that the adolescent must be allowed to suffer the natural consequences of his actions. Without possible restraint.Living in the first person the natural consequences of a bad decision allows adolescents to learn from their mistakes in a real and personal way and also gives them the opportunity to devise solutions, to ask for forgiveness or to understand the direct implications of negligent behavior or inadequate.
When adolescents suffer the natural consequences of their decisions and actions, they gain a lot of life experience and this experience helps communication between parents and their adolescent children. On the one hand, adolescents can understand their parents' opinions better because they have more experience and may notice that the consequences that the parents anticipated have been fulfilled.
In turn, parents can better understand their child's internal development by observing both the decision-making process and their child's response to the consequences. This information can help parents much to adapt their message during communication with their child.
Deanna Marie Mason, expert in education and family health. Author of the blog Dr. Deanna Marie Mason. An educational approach to adaptation
It may interest you:
- Communication with my teenagers, what has changed?
- Five steps to talk to a teenager
- Tips to talk with your teenagers
- Relationships between parents and adolescents