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Make Time for Teens

How to Talk to Teens



The Hurried Child

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk


 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO STAY CONNECTED WITH THE TEENAGERS IN YOUR LIFE
By Susan Ginsberg Ed.D.

As parents, grandparents and concerned citizens, we can be advocates for change in the larger society. But what can we do in our own families to raise children who are secure, well-balanced, caring, responsible, able to communicate, and who have a positive view of the world?

OUR EXPECTATIONS MATTER
The thought of having an adolescent child fills many parents with dread. We talk about ┐surviving the teenage yearsţ as if we░re going into combat. We need to rethink these attitudes because they can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. Despite the many physical and emotional changes teenagers go through, they do not become unpleasant, heartless creatures. In fact, Dr. Laurence Steinberg, says that even though there are some inevitable family tensions, children from many different kinds of homes report a high degree of respect for their parents and most kids turn out just fine.

Negative attitudes toward teenagers can also lead to parents to pull away from their own children, assuming that they can░t influence them anymore. This, in turn, allows kids to withdraw▄a pattern that has been shown to end up with troubled adolescents.

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT TEENS?
One of the most frequently asked questions these days is: ┐How well do you know your teens?ţ To answer that, it░s important first to know about teens. For example:

÷       Teenagers face many pressures that adults tend not to take seriously. Their bodies are changing; they worry about their personal safety, divorce, and death. They ask themselves: ┐Who am Iţ and ┐What am I going to do with my life?ţ

÷       To some degree, you can expect teens to be moody and self-centered, to question your values and your authority. That░s because they░re trying to establish an identity of their own.

÷       Self-doubt is constant. Teens feel pressure to conform and fear ridicule if they don░t. This can be bewildering, frightening, and even depressing.

÷       While teens want to be treated like adults, it░s important for parents to provide structure and limits. Teens need help sorting out their lives as well as large doses of tender loving care.

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR TEEN
To know what your teenager is doing and provide appropriate guidance, you may need some new ways of interacting. Here are some suggestions to help keep the lines of communication between you and your teen open.

÷       Make time together. Yes, the pressures of work stand in your way and kids also want to be with their friends. Think of this as a critical opportunity to have a major input into your child░s life. However, kids this age don░t want to full blast of attention. They open up best when you░re doing something else such as driving or just hanging out together.

÷       Don░t rush in if you hear something you don░t approve of. We want to impart our values, but maintain a ┐safeţ atmosphere for kids to tell us things they know we may not like. Try saying: ┐I░m glad you told me that. Let me give it some thought and we can talk about it again.ţ

÷       Respect teens░ ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Ask for their opinions and suggestions and show confidence in their judgment. Include them in family decision-making.

÷       Help teens make sensible choices. Teach them to take a problem-solving approach to decision-making. Encourage their independence. Think carefully about when they can decide for themselves and when you need to step in.

÷       When you get mad, don░t blame or accuse. Blaming serves only to arouse tempers and kill dialogue▄it forces teens to argue the point. Say what you feel, using ┐Iţ messages: ┐I░m angry (or sad or disappointed) becauseŮţ

÷       Avoid negative labeling. Instead of ┐You░re a lazy slob,ţ try ┐I░m upset because you didn░t clean up the mess.ţ Labels are hurtful and can stand in the way of kids thinking they can change their behavior▄and, thus, can last a lifetime.

÷       Say what you want your kids to do. Instead of ┐Don░t you dare talk to me like that,ţ try a more positive approach: ┐I expect to be treated with respect.ţ

÷       Acknowledge you child░s strengths. Recognize a specific effort instead of giving blanket praise: for example, ┐I can see that you really tried hard to improve your history grade.ţ

÷       Set reasonable limits. Teenagers need them and, deep down, really want them. The limits you set should be rooted in your family░s values and beliefs and consistently applied.

÷       Respect your teen░s privacy in the same way you want him or her to respect yours. However, if you suspect there░s something seriously wrong, speak up or take action.

÷       Take an active interest in your teen░s friends. What are they like? What kids of things are they interested in? Stay in touch with their parents. Lots of valuable information can be exchanged about school, teachers, or social events such as: Will there really be an adult at that party on Saturday night?

(adapted from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)

 
 
 
 
 
 

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