Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying

Have you begun to notice changes taking place within your child’s body, attitude and behavior? Has your usually sweet and adoring child suddenly begun asserting themselves in ways not seen before, including being rude, defiant and sometimes downright obnoxious? Perhaps you have looked at your preteen and silently wondered, “who are you and what have you done with my child?”

Last year your daughter was so “cute and sweet” but now she has an “attitude”, and your son who used to be your best buddy is now treating you like you’re not so “cool” anymore. Welcome to parenting a teenager. Mark Twain offered one solution on how to survive the teenage years: “Put them in a barrel, and nail it shut until they turn nineteen. Only then should you let them out.” Amen to that!

Seriously though, adolescence is a very difficult time for young people and parents to contend with, causing some parents to wonder if it’s even possible to survive the teen years without permanent damage. Physical changes, pressures to conform to social trends and numerous peer pressures, expectations from family members and teachers, reek havoc on the lives of teens and parents (proven by the increased numbers of gray hairs suddenly appearing on parents heads).

How to Talk to Teenagers

Parenting an teenager requires parents to learn and understand healthy adolescent development, and begin thinking and acting more in terms of influence rather than control, which is much easier said than done. Learning how to talk to teens and preteens about dating and relationship problems, teenage sex, drugs, drinking alcohol and other risky behaviors, in a way that keeps teens talking to parents can be difficult but well worth the effort.

Parents with teens have to listen more than they talk, paying keen attention to really hearing what their teens are saying with the words used, as well as tone and body language shown. Adolescents have spent at least a decade of their lives as listeners and doing what they were told to do in most situations, but are now making the gradual move towards independent thinking and decision-making, and learning how to define themselves and their own identity.

These changes include testing limits and parental boundaries in order to begin shifting the balance of power and authority in their own direction as they mature. As a parent, I’d be more concerned if my teens were not testing limits, as this is a normal (yet frustrating) part of growing up.

Get a Grip. It’s Not About You

One of the most difficult, emotionally painful aspects of dealing with the onset of the teen years, is the sudden realization that the kind of connection and closeness once enjoyed with your child has now begun to shift into a more mature one. Plainly put, it hurts to let go of our children.

I can still remember when each of my children reached the stage in their development when I recognized the physical and emotional changes within them beginning to shift from child to teenager. Despite the emotional hurt, it is crucial for teenagers to begin distancing themselves from their parents, and parents must not prevent this normal behavior change from taking place by being too attached to their child.

Fortunately, family psychologist Mike Riera has written “Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying”, and this is by far the best parenting manual on dealing with teenagers that I’ve ever found, which explains a variety of strategies parents can use to improve their relationships and communication with their children and teens.

From moving from a “Manager” to a “Consultant” role in a teens life, from working with a teens uniquely exasperating sleep rhythms to having real conversations when only monosyllables have been previously possible, Staying Connected to Your Teenager demonstrates ways to bring out the best in a teen-and, consequently, in an entire family.

Anyone with children that are soon to become teenagers, or parents with existing teenagers, will be profoundly affected by reading Mr. Riera’s phenomenal book, and the improved communication and connection had with your teens will help immensely in carrying your family through the difficult times ahead. You will survive the teen years, and so they will they.

Further Reading:

Parents Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
Let’s Talk About Teens and Sex
Jobs For Teens-Child Safety and Prevention
You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Say About You
Building Self-Confidence in Children With Self-Esteem Activities
Relationship Deal-Breakers: Non-Negotiable Boundaries
Are You An Enabler? Identifying Early Warning Signs of Enabling Behaviors
How to Deal With Teenage Abusive Relationships


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10 Responses to “Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying”

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  1. fragileheart says:

    It might be the medication, but this made me really sad. And this may seem extreme, I don’t want to go through this… therefore I don’t want to have kids! It’s too hard!

    Ok, drama’s over. Great advice Lin… please don’t ever take your website down! I know I will need your advice when I do have kids of my own someday!

  2. Lin says:

    FG, raising teenagers is difficult, I won’t lie to you and say it isn’t. It’s hard dealing with teenagers and the various issues that arise, but the rewards of putting in all the hard work is truly amazing. One of the greatest things that often happens when teenagers grow up is when they come back and tell the parents, Thank you for raising me the way you did, and I’m sorry for the struggles I put you through. “Surviving the teen years” is really how it is in many ways, but being a parent is probably the best thing that could ever happen in our lives and so rewarding.

  3. Debbie says:

    Great advise Lin! Being a parent, you are the most important person in your child’s life and can make a profound impact on their health decisions. I work at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and would like to share our new website with your readers — timetotalk.org. It’s a great resource for tools and tips to help parents and caregivers talk to their kids about the risks of drugs. Our research shows that kids who consistently learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not. Do know how to get the conversation going? Visit timetotalk.org and get the help you need to start talking with your kids.

  4. Lin says:

    Debbie, thank you for stopping by and offering up resources for parents to be able to talk to their kids about the risk of drugs, and I hope many parents will stop by and check out your site. Thanks so much!

  5. Marc Klein says:

    As our children’s are going older the communication gap between us is getting wider and wider. We should talk to our children’s and try to find out the solutions for their problems. We should have an open minded approach towards our children’s.

  6. Lin says:

    Marc, having excellent communication with teens is essential to good parenting. Teens often complain that their parents “don’t really listen” to them, and that they wish their parents would give them the opportunity to completely and openly express themselves (respectfully of course), without cutting off conversation with an abundance of should’s and must-have’s type responses.

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