Building Bridges: Nurturing Open Communication with Your Teenager
Awareness Parenting

Building Bridges: Nurturing Open Communication with Your Teenager


The Teenage years are a mix of excitement, confusion and Rapid growth

One of the most troublesome times, I have ever come across, was my teenage years. On one hand, I was knitting this beautiful dream of love life and winning with flying colours and on the other, it was extremely difficult for me to have the simplest of conversations with my parents. The age of fight or flight got all the more entangled between Expectations and acceptance. Some days were gloomy and some were bright like the Sun.

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I am sure every one of us must have gone through this turbulence and felt like a failure. Teenage or adolescence is an age in which an individual faces massive changes in terms of their biology and psyche. It is a transitional stage but its physical, psychological, or cultural expression, may begin earlier or later.

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Since a teenager is perceived as too free-spirited, conspicuously bright- overly plump or physically weak risks being targeted or ostracized from their peer group. The role of a parent holds other importance in making the teenager understand why he or she is facing such changes and how to deal with such changes. Most importantly just being there beside the teenager can help boost their confidence and motivate them to resolve conflicts. One of the effective ways of helping a teenager is communicating with them effectively. Knowledge or information-focused communication is the key to helping and guiding a teenager to sail through the Stormy sea of teenagers.

Defining Communication

Communication plays a catalytic role in a teenager’s life as at this age he or she remains highly confused and finds it difficult to share their painted-up emotions. It serves as a barrier-breaking tool as it involves a conversation with a purpose.

To make a communication impact full let us focus on some active listening techniques as they are useful in building therapeutic relationships and creating empathy. Active listening requires the listener to pay close attention to what is being communicated verbally and nonverbally. The listener is encouraged to interpret not only the content of what is being said but also the emotions present and the body language. Psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson (1987) are responsible for defining the concept of active listening. They describe the skill as vitally important for effective communication. For Rogers, the ultimate goal of active listening was to foster positive change.

  • Paraphrasing: The purpose of paraphrasing is to convey interest and encourage the speaker to keep talking. To achieve it, restart the information just received with your own words. For example “So you showed up at the college on time.
  • Verbalizing Emotions: This is done to show that you understand and want to help the speaker evaluate their feelings. To achieve this, reflect the speaker’s basic feelings and emotions in words. For example ” And this made you Angry.
  • Asking: Get more information, ask questions. For example ” he did not react?
  • Summarising: Review progress, pull together important ideas and establish a basis for further discussion. To achieve this, restate major ideas expressed including feelings. For example,” These seem to be the key ideas you’ve expressed.

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  • Clarifying: Clarifying what is said, helps the speaker see other points of view. Achieve this state by asking questions for vague statements. Restate wrong interpretations to further explanation. Example ” You said you reacted immediately was this still on the same day?
  • Encouraging: Convey interest, and encourage the speaker to keep talking. Disagree and use varying intonations. Offer ideas and suggestions. Example ” Then your teacher approached you. How did they behave?
  • Balancing: Get more information, and help the speaker reevaluate his feelings. For example, “And you perceive the inconvenience to be worse than not being taken seriously?

Navigating Tough Conversations with a Teenager

  1. Stay Calm and Open: Keep your emotions in check and create a non-judgmental atmosphere. Teens are more likely to open up if they feel safe expressing themselves without fear of immediate criticism.
  2. Listen Actively: Pay close attention to what your teenager is saying, and avoid interrupting. Let them share their thoughts and feelings without feeling rushed. Reflective listening, where you repeat or paraphrase what they’ve said, can show that you understand.
  3. Empathize: Acknowledge their emotions, even if you don’t agree with their perspective. Understanding their feelings helps build trust and shows that you respect their point of view.
  4. Choose the Right Time and Place: Find a suitable time when you both can talk without distractions. Ensure privacy and choose a calm environment to avoid unnecessary tension during the conversation.
  5. Be Clear and Concise: Clearly express your thoughts and concerns. Avoid ambiguous language and stick to the specific issue at hand. This helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures your message is understood.
  6. Use I Statements: Frame your concerns using I statements to express your feelings without sounding accusatory. For example, say; I feel worried when…; instead of “You always..
  7. Explore Solutions Together: Involve your teenager in problem-solving. Ask for their input on finding solutions, fostering a sense of responsibility and collaboration.
  8. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and expectations. This provides a framework for behaviour and helps teenagers understand the consequences of their actions.
  9. Encourage Independence: Acknowledge their growing need for autonomy and decision-making. Encourage responsible choices and help them understand the consequences of their decisions.
  10. Follow-up: After the conversation, check in periodically to see how things are going. This shows ongoing support and reinforces that you value open communication. Remember, building trust and maintaining a supportive relationship is key to navigating tough conversations with teenagers.

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Building trust with your Teen

  1. Active Listening: Demonstrate a genuine interest in what they have to say. Avoid interrupting and show that their thoughts and feelings are important to you.
  2. Respect Their Privacy: While it’s crucial to be involved in their lives, respecting their privacy fosters trust. Give them space when needed, and avoid prying into every aspect of their personal lives.
  3. Consistent Communication: Regularly check in with them, but do so casually. Don’t only initiate conversations when there’s a problem; ask about their day, interests, and thoughts regularly.
  4. Be Honest and Transparent: Model honesty and openness. If you make a mistake, admit it and discuss how you plan to address it. This helps build credibility and shows that everyone is human.
  5. Empathize: Understand and validate their emotions, even if you don’t agree with their perspective. Let them know that their feelings are acknowledged and respected.
  6. Set Realistic Expectations: Establish clear expectations and rules, but ensure they are reasonable. Unrealistic demands can lead to a breakdown of trust.
  7. Follow Through on Commitments: If you promise to do something, make sure you follow through. Consistently fulfilling commitments builds reliability and shows that your word can be trusted.
  8. Encourage Independence: Support their growing need for independence and decision-making. Allow them to make choices within reasonable boundaries, helping them develop a sense of responsibility.
  9. Share Your Own Experiences: Open up about your own experiences, including your mistakes and lessons learned. This vulnerability can strengthen the connection and make you more relatable.
  10. Be Non-Judgmental: Avoid harsh judgments, especially when they confide in you about their challenges. Offer guidance without being overly critical, creating an environment where they feel safe sharing their concerns.

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Building trust with a teenager is an ongoing process that requires patience, understanding, and consistent effort. It’s about creating a foundation of mutual respect and open communication.

Balancing Support and Independence

  • Open Communication: Foster an environment where your teenager feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns. Encourage them to share their experiences and listen actively without judgment.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Establish clear rules and expectations while allowing room for negotiation. Communicate consequences for certain behaviours, but also be willing to discuss and adjust rules as they demonstrate responsibility.
  • Encourage Decision-Making: Provide opportunities for your teenager to make decisions and learn from the consequences. This helps build their decision-making skills and fosters a sense of independence.
  • Offer Guidance, Not Control: Instead of dictating every choice, offer guidance and share your thoughts. Help them analyze potential outcomes and make informed decisions, empowering them to take responsibility for their choices.
  • Respect Their Privacy: While staying involved in their lives, respect their need for privacy. Allow them space to develop a sense of independence and trust that they will come to you when they need guidance.
  • Acknowledge Achievements: Celebrate their accomplishments, both big and small. Recognizing their successes boosts their confidence and reinforces the idea that you believe in their abilities.

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  • Provide a Safety Net: While encouraging independence, let them know you’re there to support them when they encounter challenges. Be a source of guidance and reassurance, helping them navigate difficulties rather than solving problems for them.
  • Teach Time Management: Help your teenager develop effective time management skills. Balancing responsibilities and activities fosters independence and prepares them for future challenges.
  • Model Healthy Relationships: Demonstrate healthy relationships by maintaining open communication with your teenager. Show them how to negotiate, compromise, and respectfully resolve conflicts.
  • Encourage Hobbies and Interests: Support their exploration of various hobbies and interests. This not only helps them discover their passions but also promotes independence and self-discovery.

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Balancing support and independence involves a delicate dance of guidance and empowerment. It’s about fostering a relationship that allows your teenager to navigate the challenges of adolescence while knowing they have a supportive foundation to fall back on when needed.

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