I come to you today as a mom who’s parented two girls through their teenage years…and lived to tell about it 🙂
There are many ways our teens communicate with us. We might guess what they’re feeling from their body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and if they choose to cuddle up next to us on the sofa.
While those things give us clues, talking is typically the most effective way to communicate with and understand our teenagers. But as they go through their teen years, they may not talk to us as much as they did when they were younger.
Personality certainly plays into this. Some of our children are open books and want to tell us everything. Others would rather keep most of their thoughts and feelings to themselves. (I had one of each personality.) But even with my daughter who’s more private, I found that if I was present, patient, and didn’t push, she’d open up.
As we reach out to talk to our teenage daughters, here are ten helpful tips to consider.
1. Timing is key.
If you want to have a conversation – especially a more serious one – do it when you both have a little time for discussion. It probably won’t be in the car on the way to school or when you pick her up after sports practice and she’s already worked up about something. It’s easier when both of you are calm and not preoccupied.
2. Listen fully.
Don’t be a distracted listener. If she’s verbally sharing with you, no matter how inconsequential it seems, give her your full attention.
3. Be calm.
This won’t always come easily. She may say something that makes you want to snap back at her. As one author said, refuse to ride the emotional rollercoaster with her. Be the adult. But be sure she knows that you’ll be there and ready to talk when she gets off of that rollercoaster!
4. Acknowledge her feelings.
You may or may not agree with her, but you can still acknowledge those feelings as hers.
5. Don’t accuse.
If you need to figure out a situation, start by letting her explain what happened. Follow up with some thoughtful questions that are direct but not accusatory.
6. Be honest and expect honesty in return.
Relationships are built on trust, and lying breaks that trust. We taught our girls from an early age that, in our family, dishonesty was a big deal. There’s grace for it, just as there is for other offenses, but we wanted them to know the importance of telling the truth.
7. Handle correction privately.
Don’t embarrass her by pointedly correcting her or bringing up her issues in front of others. Wait until the two of you can discuss it alone.
8. Share humor.
Have light moments of communication often. Our daughters and I send funny Instagram reels to each other. Remind her of inside jokes that your family has.
9. Be patient.
If you go through a period of time when your daughter’s not talking a lot, be patient. Make sure that there aren’t any deeper issues at play. Then just give her the freedom to talk on her timetable.
10. Make sure she knows that you always want the best for her.
This heart connection isn’t built in one conversation. It comes over time as you invest in her life and show her your love.
It’s one of the great parenting lessons I learned from my dad. I usually agreed with his parenting decisions, but even when I didn’t, I always knew he made those decisions from a place of truly wanting what was best for me.
While the teen years can feel very long, they actually aren’t! What a great time to build communication habits that will serve us well as our teens move into adulthood.