As a young person, those nights leading up to turning thirteen and becoming a teenager can be exhausting. For years, he was a kid, your child. Your new teen now wants to know if he is supposed to automatically look or feel different, and your teen will wonder if he will enter the cool set of teens in the neighborhood—the teenhood. He or she will realize every piece of clothing is critical and will wonder what everyone else thinks about him or her. Believe it or not, your teen may wonder if you will still love, approve of, and accept him or her.
Teens will want to explore dangerous things, painful things, silly things, and illegal things. By having an open line of communication, you can help your teen to understand the consequences of exploring. Do you remember when you tried something new? Was the danger in that exciting? If it was for you, it will be for your teen as well.
Communication is important in the teenage years. Although your teen may pull away from you, he or she still needs direction and discipline. Even the most responsible teen will still need help from his or her parents or caregivers. Have you opened the door of communication with your teen? Do they know they can come to you to talk about anything – without consequences?
Here are some tips on how to communicate effectively with your teenager:
· Build the lines of communication. Always communicate in a positive manner. Never give them an “I told you so” response. Let them know they can talk to you about anything.
· Respect his or her opinion and take into account his or her thoughts and feelings. It’s important your teen knows you are listening.
· Engage in active listening. Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what is heard. Once you hear your teen’s concerns, you will be able to feel what he or she feels. Active listening gives the teen the opportunity to correct you. In other words: they talk, you listen, and you paraphrase what they said to you, and the teen tells you if you are correct. Doing so helps to fix any misunderstandings.
· Be honest and direct when talking about sensitive subjects such as sex, drugs, drinking, and smoking.
· Be willing to admit you don’t know everything and that you’re not always right.
Do you know if your teen or pre-teen has explored with any substances such as tobacco, alcohol, or drugs? Would you know if your teen was in an abusive relationship, stealing, bullying, or contemplating suicide? Do you know the signs that a teenager exhibits when they need help? Signs such as stress, anxiety, lack of concentration, poor food and drink intake, personal hygiene changes, sleep disturbances, and lack of interest in social activities. Without communication, your teen may be suffering in silence.
We all know teens will still experiment despite our actions to prevent it, but at least we can be comfortable knowing we informed them of the dangers, and we can hope the knowledge of those dangers outweigh their curiosity. Be there for your teen and open the line of communication today. Let them know they can tell you anything – and without consequences.