Supporting effective communication with your teen

boy with phone in front of graffiti

It’s often said that communication is the key to a healthy relationship. While it might sound like tired advice, it’s a skill worth learning that will help us do better in all our relationships. As your child grows up, the way you communicate with them will need to change to reflect the new boundaries in your relationship created by their increasing independence. Discovering these new and different approaches to communicating effectively with one another will be a learning experience for you both. Effective communication with your teenager can help you both feel happier and more connected in your relationship, and more confident about having difficult conversations and resolving conflicts.

Effective communication can help if:

  • you feel disconnected from your child

  • you and your child don’t speak

  • you want to encourage your child to talk about what’s going on for them

  • you want to improve your relationship with your child.

What is effective communication?

You and your child are communicating effectively when:

  • you both feel able to talk freely about your feelings, and you feel heard and understood.

  • you talk about all the little stuff, and you feel comfortable talking about the tough stuff when you need to

  • you have a close and easy way of sharing things, and you both know you won’t be judged because you love and care about each other.

Communicating with teens can sometimes be difficult, in busy households, it’s easy to overlook making time and space in your day to have a really good talk with your child and find out what’s going on in their life.

When your child no longer depends on you as much as they once did, it’s harder to know everything that’s going on in their lives as the communication between parents and teenagers seems to decrease. They are more independent, and so you have to make time to check in with them to find out how they’re going.

Why is effective communication important?

Your relationship is changing, and you have to be flexible and able to change with your child. But don’t ever think that they need you any less as a good sounding board. During adolescence, they need you just as much as they ever did. The best way to support them is by making sure they’ll come to you with any problems they’re having, and that’s why effective communication is so important.

What can help in communicating effectively with your child?

Here are some tips that can help you have positive and constructive conversations with your child.

  • Being genuinely interested and curious about what your child is telling you.

  • Giving them your undivided attention.

  • Show empathy – put yourself in your child’s shoes.

  • Avoid just giving them instructions or unsolicited advice.

  • Choose a quiet space without distractions for important conversations.

Barriers to effective communication

Try to minimise the following, which act as barriers to effective communication.

  • Interruptions and distractions, which can make it seem like you’re not interested in what your child is saying.

  • Jumping in with advice, rather than listening to what your child has to say.

  • Judging what your child has to say and not validating their point of view.

  • Interrogating your child by firing questions at them.

Here are some things to try that might help you to communicate more effectively with your child.