Psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy gives tips on communicating with teenagers

Dr Eddie Murphy gives tips on keeping communication lines open through the teen years
Adolescent years can be a difficult time for teenagers and for parents alike.

Adolescent years can be a difficult time for teenagers and for parents alike.

Young people experience a vast number of changes as they move towards independence. Their beliefs and values may conflict with the parents’, they may develop interests that you don’t understand or quit hobbies that you encouraged in their younger years. Try to see this in a positive light as they are becoming their own person.

Right now your teen might be facing into stressful exams or requesting to go on a summer holiday or to a music festival with friends. As a parent, it can be a struggle deciding how much independence to allow. Bear in mind that there is no ‘one size fits all’ rule.

You will always feel responsible for your child’s wellbeing and safety, no matter their age. Rules are important to create boundaries and respect but some are more important than others, e.g. not getting into a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol is always worth arguing over but cleaning up an untidy bedroom may be best to ignore.

Accept that conflict is inevitable but if you follow some simple tips, you may improve communication with your teenager.

Communication Dos:

Listen more than you speak –We all have two ears and one mouthso we should spend twice as much time listening as talking. This is especially important with teenagers who could surprise you how much they disclose if given the chance. Be supportive, show an interest in how they plan to resolve a problem. Offer constructive criticism or simply ask ‘what can I do to help?’

Spend time together – Take advantage of your time alone together in the car and have dinner or breakfast together regularly - without phones/I-pads/Facebook! - to allow for conversation.

Give them privacy – Teenagers need their own space. Knock before you go into their room or let them study in a peaceful spot.

Take an active interest in their life and have fun– listen to their music, watch their tv shows with them and attend their sports games or performances. Make time for leisure and laughter as a family which improves rapport.

Be a loving parent – adolescence is a time when young people often struggle with their changing sense of identity and self-esteem. Make them feel loved and special often. Celebrate their achievements and forgive their petty mistakes.

Compromise – Negotiate reasonable house rules and reach an outcome that you both can accept. Stop and consider before you say ‘no’ to a request. Is your teen now responsible enough for you to say ‘yes’ this time? If you do say ‘no’, tell them why e.g. safety issues.

Set a good example. Apologise when you are wrong. Adolescents learn from parents and other adults – consider what your drinking says to your teen before arguing about theirs.

Communication Don’ts

Avoid lecturing and nagging. If your teen is going through a stressful time, this can cause more and push them away from you.

Don’t share with others when they have confided in you. They may not risk opening up to you again for some time.

Avoid harsh criticism, sarcasm or shouting to get your point across.

“Do-it-because-I-said-so” approach with teens rarely works, give reasons.

Avoid over-reaction Listen without judgment before responding.

Avoid negative body language. For example, don’t roll your eyes or sigh.

Young people will stop talking if you don’t listen respectfully.

Don’t assume or mind read. Listen.

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