22 Sep Open The Doors To Conversation With Your Teenager
Parenting teenagers was never easy, but it is a different story in today’s landscape. We live in a time where it is easier to communicate with the outside world than with the members who live under the same roof. When it comes to teenagers, the barriers to entering their world are so many that unless parents make a conscious effort, all lines of communication may drop dead.
In our field of work, we come across various types of families – a few where the parents are in sync with their teenagers and others where there is a significant divide between them. Unfortunately, the latter outnumber the former by a large gap. And, it is not the fault of the parents.
We grew up in an era where our parents always had the final say, even in significant decisions of our lives, like career and marriage. Our parents had limited resources and were busy working to give us a good life. Most of us have had to work really hard to make it to the place we are at. Today, we raise children in nuclear units and give them a secure environment from early on. Our teenagers are more involved in family decisions and have more access to information. It is true that the families are far more democratic now than what they used to be and as we know – democracies are noisy and bring in a lot of push and pull.
When it comes to keeping a healthy communication channel, we believe the onus lies with the parents. Teenagers are in a developmental phase where their bodies and mind are still evolving. They are trying to identify and establish their identities. They are also learning to deal with their emotions. Peer acceptance is a huge motivator in their lives, and it is not uncommon to see them act out when that doesn’t happen. Teenagers also have the pressure to do well in school to secure admission to good colleges. In our numerous conversations with teenagers and school leaders, we see three significant pressure points on today’s youth and they are: peer pressure, body image issues and digital media distractions.
Amidst all this, the relationship with parents often bears the brunt. The situation worsens when parents try to express and maintain control over their teenagers’ lives. Or when they are protective and want to know what is happening in their teenagers’ lives. Kids can often misconstrue such queries as intrusion from their parents.
All parents mean well for their kids. However, the way they establish and maintain communication can make a whole lot of difference. We do not have a sure-shot formula, but here are a few ways to foster better communication with your teenagers.
Be open and non-judgemental
Teenage is a time when your kids start making independent decisions. Not all of them are right. They stop sharing when they fear your judgement or punishment at home. When you give them a safe environment to discuss their failures and mistakes, they will feel encouraged to reach out to you.
However, it is also essential to set boundaries so they know what is acceptable and what is not.
“They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
Khalil Gibran said these famous words in his writing, On Children. Gone are the days when Indian families had a leading patriarch who would decide the fate of children in the house.
Also Read: Fostering Resilience In Teenagers
Your kids are independent souls who will soon be out into the world on their own. Allow them the space to be themselves and respect them as individuals. Let them make mistakes and learn from them. At the same time, communicate that you are there for them.
Spend time with them
The time you spend with your teenagers in a light-hearted environment is an opportunity to strengthen your bond with them. Engage with your teenager in activities that you enjoy as a family. Try to let them lead conversations and show interest in their activities – their choice of music, memes, games, etc. Have more relaxed and non-judgemental conversations to make way for difficult ones. When trust takes over fear, your teenagers are more likely to come to you when they make mistakes.
Be wary of the time and place
The easiest way to get on the wrong side of your teenager is to have difficult conversations when they are having a bad day or to ridicule them when you have company. Be perceptive and look for a quiet space and time when you can have a meaningful discussion with your teenager.
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