Communicating With Your Teen

Max Schaefer, EHS '10

How to Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Most parents who have teenagers have struggled with communication and those who haven’t had teens yet likely will. As our children grow older and more dependent it is natural that the levels and types of communication we had with them during our childhood will fade and be replaced by new ways of interacting. This is a normal change, but parents should be conscious of the way they react to these changing dynamics and make an effort to keep the lines of communication open.

Be Available

Let them know you are available. Be genuine about this, but don’t expect an immediate response. Simply mentioning that you are always available to talk should your teen want or need to will probably be a welcome announcement for them.
Further, be open to different ways of communicating. Your teen might not find talking on the phone to be effective, and you should be ready to try to match their style of communication. After all, some form of communication—even if it is texting—is better than nothing at all.
Make sure your teen understands they can call you to talk about whatever and whenever, whether it be a failed test, or needing a ride home from a party; this will indicate to them that you are on their side.

Connecting From Afar

For the many parents who have a teen at a boarding school, keeping in touch can seem even more difficult. However, it doesn’t have to be the case. Almost all boarding schools allow frequent visits and communication. If your child goes to a boarding school within driving distance, popping in for dinner or stopping by on the weekend during a semester to catch up can be a treat for both of you.  Cheering on team sports or attending school events is also a great way to participate in your teen’s burgeoning new life.
Having your teen give you a quick ring once or twice a week can also be a nice way to stay in touch. Keep in mind, however, with school work and activities they might be busy and these conversations might be short.
Parents of boarders should also take advantage of vacation time and make the most of spending it with their families. Communication is often more than just talking and finding time to do things together you both enjoy will convey meaningful positive messages.

Don't Push Too Much

This is perhaps the most difficult and counter-intuitive advice, but the more parents push with brute force the old forms of communication they had with their kids, the more their teenagers will pull back.
Instead of making over-the-top herculean efforts, parents should think about more subtle ways to connect with their teenagers. Beyond just trying to find out what their teens think is cool and getting involved, parents should ask themselves how their teens might value them being involved in their new and developing interests. This could take the form of setting up a small outing based around one of your teen’s hobbies, or just sitting down to play a video game with them.
In short, the key to keeping in touch with your teen is making sure they know that you won’t judge them should they need to come to you. Building trust with your teen and keeping an open mind is your pathway to effective communication.
As your teenager is beginning to try out new things and interests, they will be going through a lot of change. Your child is beginning to make decisions on things that have real consequence. Remaining a constant for them is something they will thank you for down the road.
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Eagle Hill School is the premier college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 8-12 with diverse learning profiles, such as ADHD and Dyslexia.