How often do we hear the following statements when chatting to parents or teenagers: ‘I wish my teenaged son / daughter would communicate more openly with me’ or ‘I wish my parents would just butt out of my life’. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find open channels of communication between parents and teenagers in the so-called ‘oh-so-busy-crazy-race of life. Yet, this remains one of the ultimate goals of parents of teenagers today. So, why is it so difficult to chat to the modern teenager?
Whilst modern technology and its increased usage is seen as a boon to teenagers, most parents have a total opposite view of this. The question then remains…… Is technology to be blamed for poor communication between parents and teenagers? The answer quite simply is NO since a lack of communication between parents and teenagers is an age-old issue.
The idea that most things evolve and improve with the passing of time should also apply to parent – teen relationships. Many teenagers are afraid of opening up to parents because they are all too aware that this very personal or sensitive issue that is discussed with their parent may not remain confidential for too long. This ‘issue’ is very easily discussed over a cup of coffee or a beer at the bar and the discussions that continue thereafter ensures that the whole neighbourhood, God forbid, the school, is privy to it. To make matters worse, sometimes the information is distorted along the grapevine of discussions, resulting in embarrassment for the teenager concerned. It is important for parents to respect information that is shared with them and refrain from discussing it with friends at the earliest opportunity because it is a definite trust breaker.
Couples are advised to have ‘date- nights’ to make time for themselves alone. Why not do the same with your teenager? Make it a once a month mother/ daughter or father and son outing. Visit places that you know they are keen to visit or a place that you would like to share with them. Once a teenager realises that you are focused on them and that they are important, so much so, that you will ensure that there is a special mother/daughter time, your relationship and communication channels will prosper. It is easier to have a conversation with your teen in a neutral setting under casual circumstances, rather than around the dinner table. If this outing happens on a regular basis, your teen will also use this time to approach you with issues that are important to him or her and voila, your battle is won.
Lastly, it is important for your teenager to know that you are their NUMBER 1 supporter. Let your words AND actions tell them that they are your number one priority, no matter what. Do not postpone a father / son day out to watch the rugby with your buddies. Instead postpone your rugby with the boys to be there to support your teenager during a time of crisis. Support your teenager in a constructive way, even when they have made a mistake, or you are disappointed in their actions. Talking about the matter, rather than accusing your teenager will always allow for open discussions.
Become a TEAM and you will soon find that the communication lines are opening up.
By Julie Arthur, Crawford College North Coast