Any parent of a teenager will tell you it can be a tough time. Your once-cherubic and chatty child can suddenly morph into a sullen stranger. Hong Kong Psychologist Scarlett Mattoli of The Psynamo Group says that, while it can be difficult at times, it’s vital to keep lines of communication open as your kids become more independent socially. Here, she shares her top tips on how to keep talking with your teen.
Top tips for talking to teens
#1 “Have clear, fair and negotiated house rules. They are people in your home as much as they are your children, and learning to respect boundaries, whether they like it or not, is a fact of life, not just for parents.”
#2 “Be present in your teen’s life. If you just can’t be in their life as much as you’d like, have regular ‘meetings’ with your children that have been scheduled in. This shows you respect their time and value their opinion.”
#3 “Appreciate that they want to get a little power and will work hard to push your buttons. Stop any interaction that isn’t going positively – the most powerful way they can learn to regulate their own emotions is by some powerful modelling from you.”
#4 “Try to move from telling them what you want done to discussing family needs. No one responds well to being told what to do and with the emotion control-impaired and hormone infused brain of a teenager, this is likely to bring out resistance.”
#5 “Stick to what you say. If everyone’s on the same page, you have no reason to shift the goal posts. Be consistent.”
#6 “Control your own feelings first. If you can’t control the first response to behaviour then have the good grace to repair the relationship afterwards by letting them know you’re sorry you shouted.”
#7 “Use conflict resolution theory’s best strategy – ‘I’ statements. Just speak on behalf of yourself and with genuineness. Generally, sticking with needs and feelings can be a safe bet.”
#8 “Be authentic. They probably don’t want you as a friend right now, but you’re a person and they are learning to respect all different kinds of people in the world.”
#9 “Catch them out being ‘good’. Saying positive, concrete statements about what they are doing right can go a long way.”
#10 “Take a moment to consider why you ask them to do anything. Thinking through your own values and needs can help you to be sure before you speak.”
Scarlett Mattoli is a psychologist specialising in supporting neuro developmental differences, families and addictions in Hong Kong. She works at The Psynamo Group, a multidisciplinary team of internationally trained mental and allied health professionals.
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