Improving Communication with Your Teen

Written by: Allison Bates, M.S.
Improving Communication with Your Teen

The parent/teenager relationship is one of the most important relationships a teenager will have in the emotionally charged teenage time of their lives; however, oftentimes the opposite occurs, with the teenager pushing the parent away. This can, in turn, trigger parents into either getting overly involved in their teenager’s lives or giving their teenagers the freedom to be independent and the space between them grows vaster.

Parents should try to remember what it was like for them as a teenager, constantly feeling undervalued, overwhelmed, and misunderstood. Especially, when teens feel they are being micromanaged or controlled, they tend to become rebellious and/or try to outsmart their parents.  As a result of such rebellious behavior, parents will intervene and take control of the situation by setting boundaries for the teen, thus creating further tension.

Below are a few examples of ways to boost communication between teenagers and their parents in a positive, healthy way.

  • Having regular open dialogues can be helpful, especially creating a standing one-on-one meeting. Some examples include dinner dates, spa dates, camping/fishing trips, and game nights.
  • Try to see the positive that the teenagers are doing to improve their behavior/communication. I have noticed that parents often will get frustrated that the teenager is still hanging out with/participating in the negative behaviors, but upon closer analysis, teens are trying to rectify the situation the best they can.
  • Try to be consistent and unemotional when setting boundaries. Parents sometimes set a boundary in an emotionally charged situation that can be very difficult for both parties to follow (ie. Cancelling family trips, taking away their car, blanket grounding, taking away extracurricular activities, etc).
  • Grant your teen some privacy. Aside from safety reasons, parents should allow their teens to have some form of privacy with minor things such as school crushes or their feelings. Forcing teens to disclose this information may lead to distrust or prying.
  • Validate their feelings. Because teens lack the decision-making skills and maturity, parents can dismiss how a teenager is feeling (ie. ‘You’ll be over this in a week’, ‘I’m sure you will work it out’, ‘They weren’t very good friends anyway”). This can lead the teen to feel like their words/actions aren’t important and can lead to distrust.






The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults  By: Frances E. Jensen, Amy Ellis Nutt. How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk  By: Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish