Often, communicating at a deeper level with your teenager can make you feel as if you’re attempting to open a combination lock without the numbers. Every once in a while, you seem to get one or two turns correct, only to mess up on the third and find yourself back at the start.
It wasn’t always this way. You have fond memories of your daughter in preschool and elementary talking to you about anything and everything. You could have entire conversations about her favorite teacher, her fears, and even the boy she had a crush on.
When she hit adolescence, though, things changed. She began to talk to her friends more than you, and you are wondering if you’ve been pushed out of the loop for good.
According to an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study on parent and child connectedness, close, positive relationships between family members play an essential role in the emotional and physical health of teens. Having open communication with their parents can even help teenagers avoid violent behavior and substance abuse.
While keeping the lines of communication open with your daughter is important, it can be a hard task. Luckily, there are proven strategies you can use to help:
Be Prepared to Listen- Not Advise
When your teenager comes home from school in a sour mood, your parental instinct may be to discover what went wrong, who did it and how you can fix it. Sometimes she might just need a listening ear while she vents her frustrations. If you’re willing to listen to her and not provide unasked for advice, you can learn more about her life and what she’s going through, while she develops the confidence and competence to figure out her own solutions.
So, instead of telling her what to do to solve the problem, brainstorm with her and ask questions that will lead her to the right answers.
Create Natural Opportunities for Interaction
If your daughter could, she might hole up in her room all day every day and never breathe a word to you. As the parent, you have to make opportunities happen. Something as simple as making dinner together, riding in the car or folding laundry together can create an opportunity to communicate.
Simply being alone with her might be all it takes to open up a conversation. After all, there are some conversations she might want to have, such as those about drugs, alcohol or sex, that can’t be had in front of the grandparents or a little brother. By making a point of spending time alone with her, you give her more of an opportunity to connect with you. She may not always want to, but the times she does, you’ll treasure.
Be Available… Really
Teenagers often feel like their parents have no time for them, especially when they have to deal with work, other children and taking care of the house. This is where you really have to put in an effort. At least once a day, make yourself available to your daughter. Let her know you’re there for her- really. Put down the cell phone. Step away from the computer. Look her in the eyes and give her your undivided attention. She may laugh or scoff- the first few times. But as she begins to see that this is real, and that it’s going to keep happening, she might just trust the connectivity and open up.
Teaching Family Communication at Greenbrier Therapeutic Boarding School
At Greenbrier, communication between teens and their parents is a big part of our therapeutic process. Each week, our therapists work with troubled teens and their families over the phone or through Skype, helping them understand how to talk to each other and open up. We take this even further during out three family workshops on campus.
If you feel like your teen is blocking you out, don’t give up home. Make yourself available, listen and create your own opportunities to develop a deeper relationship with your daughter.