Improving Teens Communication with Parents

OK so uv taught ur parents 2 reply 2 ur texts.  But how do you get their attention—and get through to them—when you need to talk to them most?  If you need their advice, opinion, permission, or whenever you just need to share important information with them, what is the best way?

It depends.  That is, it depends on the nature of your relationship with your parents and the seriousness of the conversation you need to have with them.  Do you and your parents regularly spend time together each day, maybe at the dinner table, or in the car coming home from school?  Or do you see each other only in passing, while your parents are rushing to and from their jobs and you rush to and from school, sports team or club activities, or your own job? 

Do you have a strong relationship of mutual respect and trust with your parents?  Or do they feel you’re constantly testing the boundaries of parental authority or that you consider them clueless and out-of-touch with what really matters to you? 

Lack of time is one common barrier to communicating effectively with parents.  And lack of a close, trusting relationship is another.  But by choosing the appropriate means of communication, you can compensate for lack of time and maybe even develop a stronger relationship with your parents.  And you’ll be more likely to ensure that you’re being heard and understood.  And that, after all, is the key to getting what you want and need when communicating with parents.

Generally speaking, the stronger your relationship, the easier it is to communicate with parents in a casual manner, even when the subject matter is something serious.  Maybe you just need to let Mom or Dad know you’re going home with a friend after school.  If they know your friend, and they trust you to share important information with them, a quick text or even a voice mail message may be all that’s needed.  “I’m going home with Kyle Smith after school.  Mrs. Smith will be there, and you can come pick me up at 5:00,” will give your parents the basic facts that parents always need to know: where you are, who you’re with, and that your friend’s parent will be around. 

However, suppose there are some unknowns in this picture.  Maybe your parents don’t know your friend, or your friend’s parents.  Maybe your parents have other plans that evening that would be affected by your decision to go home with a friend.  Maybe the last time you went out with a friend you came home later than promise or went someplace questionable that your parents didn’t find out about until after the fact.  If any of these circumstances sound familiar, then the quick text message telling your parent where you will be isn’t the best way to handle this particular communication.  Asking permission with a phone call, or better still, a conversation in person, will be a  much better approach. 

Here’s why it’s effective: By asking permission (instead of simply sharing information), you immediately show respect for your parents.  Talking on the phone lets you and your parent hear each other’s tone of voice, and gives you the chance to immediately answer any questions.  During this kind of live conversation you get the added benefit of being able to negotiate, if necessary, and that increases your chances of getting what you want or need.

Even better than a phone call is an in-person conversation with your parents.  You may not think it’s necessary for something as routine as going home with a friend after school.  But your parents will be glad to have some face-time with you, and you’ll find that facial expressions and other body language enhance not only the conversation but the relationship.  When your mother sees that she has your full attention—even if only briefly—and that you confidently look her in the eye as you ask permission go to, and give your assurance that you’ll be in a safe place and will be home at a planned time, it’s easier for her to feel confident and proud of you for making responsible choices.  And seeing your Mom smile as she says, “Go have a good time,” will be more satisfying to you than any text message she might have sent.

You may not think there’s so much involved in such a routine conversation, but these routine, little communications are the relationship builders that will serve you well when the need for bigger, more serious conversations arise.

Here are some guidelines you can use to make sure your parents really hear you:

Get their attention!  Text messages are convenient, but when you really need to talk to a parent, take a moment to see Mom or Dad in person or, at the very least, call them on the phone.  This way you’re certain you have their undivided attention and you can make sure they’re really listening.

Rate the seriousness of your subject or message.  This will determine the best method of communicating.  Do you need to simply share routine information?  Or do you need to discuss some problem or seek their advice?  Text, voice mail or e-mail are fine for routine information.  But plan a more serious conversation for a time and place when you and your parent can talk in person, undisturbed, in a relaxed and private atmosphere.  By doing so, you will improve your parent’s opportunity to not only understand your words, but also have some insight into the thoughts and emotions behind them.  Hard as it may be to believe, your parents were once young, like you, and they may even have gone through a similar experience and have some life lesson to share.

Make it clear to them what you’re looking for.  When dealing with parents, be direct.  “Dad, I need some advice” or “Mom, what would you do if this happened to you?” will be sure to get a parent’s attention.

So maybe you don’t always feel that you and your parents are speaking the same language.  That’s bound to happen from time to time.  But keep these few guidelines in mind, and you’ll find communicating with parents is way easier than you think.