Your Teen Really DOES Want to Talk to You: Tips for Opening Up the Lines of Communication

Author and teen expert, Dr. Jennifer Salerno, offers these powerful tips to get the conversation rolling

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Your Teen Really DOES Want to Talk to You: Tips for Opening Up the Lines of Communication

Written By: Dr. Jennifer Salerno / Author Teen Speak

As your kids transform into full-fledged teens right before your very eyes, you might be surprised to find they’ve suddenly got minds of their own and are questioning everything under the sun!

Ah, the teenage years – where conversations can feel like you’re traversing a minefield.  

But it may be helpful to know that your teen really does want to talk to you and they do value your opinion – it just takes a little finesse to get the conversation flowing smoothly.

Here’s the scoop, parents…

These almost adults are now forming their own beliefs and opinions as their brains develop and they approach adulthood. Yep, they’re flexing their intellectual muscles and trying on different viewpoints like they’re at a fashion show for ideas.

So, while you might not always see eye to eye, it’s essential to respect their individuality as they navigate this maze of growth. The best thing you can do during these formative years is to be their safe place for listening to and loving them through this time! 

Let’s dive into some tips from my book, Teen Speak, for creating a homelife that fosters open lines of communication. 

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To set a solid foundation, start with:

1. Ask Permission

Okay, bear with me on this… You might think, “What? I’m the parent!” But trust me, this sets the stage for open conversations. Gently approach those tricky topics by saying, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about XYZ. When’s a good time for us to chat without distractions?” It gives your teen a sense of control, and what teen doesn’t love that? Plus, it prevents those spontaneous debates when you or your teen might not be at their best and your conversation ends in an emotional fireworks display. 

It’s OK to press hold on the conversation by finding a time to talk later, especially if emotions are high. When you ask permission and it’s given, your teen will be more open to hearing what you want to share when the time comes to talk. This is a critical first step for building a strong foundation for communication.

2. Open Up With Empathy

Your teen comes home late and looks upset. Instead of jumping into a deep discussion about curfews and consequences, start with empathy. Something like, “I know things come up that can cause you to get home later than you expected. You are looking kind of down, what happened?” This paves the way for a safe, open space to have a real talk with your teen.

3. Really Listen

This can be the hardest strategy for parents when learning to build open lines of communication. Teenagers often perceive themselves as not being heard, especially when having difficult conversations. Here’s the trick: be a facilitator, not the grand speaker. Quiet down, use body language that screams “I’m all ears,” and let them talk.

A key to listening is sitting in a few seconds of silence after you ask your teen a question. It allows them to formulate their thoughts and response. You may need to give them permission to think deeper by saying something like “Take a minute, I really want to know what you think.” You’ll be surprised at what unfolds!

4. Mirror Back What You Heard

After they share something, reflect and mirror back what they said. It’s like saying, “Got it, this is what I think you meant.” There are different ways to reflect, like repeating, rephrasing, paraphrasing, or even reflecting feelings. Reflections can be challenging, but start with something simple like repeating what you heard from your teen

“When you met up with Olivia she was upset about losing the basketball game. The two of you got into an argument and it caused you to leave her house later than you had planned and you missed curfew.” Keep it neutral – remember this is a statement, no need for an inquisition – and give them some space to respond.

There you have it – 4 simple strategies you can start implementing today that will not only make a difference in how you communicate with your teen but also how receptive and communicative they are back to you.

Consider it a blueprint for cultivating lines of communication with your amazingly complex teens. We all want our teens to come to us when they need to talk. These strategies will help open the door to those “real talks” with your teen!

About Dr. Jennifer Salerno:

Dr. Jennifer Salerno is the author of Teen Speak and founder of Possibilities for Change, an organization transforming youth health through state-of-the-art healthcare delivery systems designed to support the professional workforce and empower youth and their families.

For more tactical tools to understanding your teen, their development, and how to build a strong foundation, download my FREE 3-in-1 PDF Bundle – How to Create Effortless Conversations with your TeenConnect with Dr. Jennifer Salerno further on Instagram and her Blog!

If you enjoyed reading, “Your Teen Really DOES Want to Talk to You: Tips for Opening Up the Lines of Communication,” you might also enjoy reading these posts!

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