There is only one phrase that makes the world go round for us humans. It’s the three words “I love you." But wait, there’s more when it comes to getting through to your teenager.
Now, there’s more to communication than knowing what to say and that is when to say and how to say it. Saying the right words so your child gets you, too.
Communication is all about connection. So when you say what you say, your teenager also hears you, feels you, gets you, and wants to know more of what you have to say.
Before I get into how you can master this craft, let me share what parenting teens can mean.
The challenges of parenting a teen
With a beginner’s mind, understand and accept that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have and what they know — including you. If you knew more you would do more, if you knew different you would do differently.
A teen is your younger version who is driven by their raging hormones. They have no control over it unless they have mastered mindful living and meditated for an hour twice a day.
And even those who claim to meditate an hour each time, twice a day, can give you the cold shoulder or snap at you. Trust me, I have had such experiences many times, which made me wonder.
To which I have only one conclusion. These master meditators do not feel connected to me and lack communication skills.
They might be used to being addressed as Amma (mother), Baba (father), Bhante (teacher), or Kumu (Master) but they are all humans going through their human existence.
So, you as a parent can feel good that you are not doing anything wrong or bad nor if your child and you are not connecting.
Forgive yourself, nourish yourself, help yourself and practice self-compassion, so you can share it with your teenager who thinks they know it all and is a grown-up but is still a child and you are the adult.
A few tried and true methods to cope with teen angst
Gone are the days when they will come to you as they did before. They are learning to find themselves in the world, and you are the provider and the space holder in the background.
Imagine yourself in a movie called “My Life” in which you are the lead and the rest of us are the supporting cast. Similarly, your teenager also stars in a movie called “My Life” in which they are the lead and you are part of the supporting cast.
The world is changing and your values might feel challenged by your teenager, and it’s okay. Just like you helped your baby grow into the teenager they are today, remain open to the fact that if you choose to work with your teenager they could make you a more understanding, accepting, and enlightened parent and citizen.
Stepping into their world and seeing it through their eyes could be a good thing and give you another chance at being a teenager — only this time, more responsible and aware.
Angst is fear with a flavor. Fear of the unknown or a version of the future that is unpleasant gives a teenager angst.
When you can’t stop worrying, or dread something imaginative which might have happened to someone or you and you can’t get it out of your mind, life feels uncertain.
This uncertainty gets heightened by feelings of shame for not being big enough to handle their troubles on their own or having to bother their already busy parent. So patience is the key.
Can we talk — less?
The term “adolescent angst” was coined with your teenager in mind so the last thing they want to hear is “can we talk?” You have to understand how your child communicates and work with that. There is no shame in asking for help. So work with a professional or even better, get to know your child’s friends and connect with them.
I remember my friends’ parents talking to me and asking me about their teenagers who would not give them the time of the day.
Nearly everyone loves to tell someone they feel responsible for or younger than them what to do. The last thing your teenager needs is a lecture that creates more antagonism. Listening more and talking less works well when communicating with anyone — especially teenagers.
And, communication is 7% words, 35% tonality, and 55% body language. So, though words are important, focus first on their body language and then their tonality, and last but least the words they use whenever you are close by.
When you want to communicate maintain open body language and a friendlier tone suggesting you are here to listen kindly and speak with compassion.
Do what they do — and how they do it
Matching and mirroring are great tools for getting them to feel that you are with them and make them want to share more. I would like to add that matching and mirroring are both organic processes and is in no way mimicking.
Even if you do not agree with them, listen. They need you on their team to be their teammate and their coach. They need to feel heard without any judgment before they listen to you.
Which activities do you and your child have in common? Walks, games, sports, music, and even conversations on books, movies, and projects could all be a common ground to strike up conversations.
When they open up, keep listening and let them know it through facial expressions and body language. It’s an art that any parent can master because you care.
5 simple but powerful phrases that work with a teenager
Finally, the conversation does not have to end when the activity ends. Even in between your “fun times”, you can have serious heart-to-heart. Let them know about you too. There’s a fine line between being their buddy and their parent. And, only you will know when to wear which hat when you are with them.
Here, then, are the five simple phrases that can help enhance open, meaningful communication between you and your teenage child:
- I love you.
- I hear you.
- I feel you.
- I get you.
- Tell me more.
So, use these simple but powerful words as a form of greeting for your beloveds — and your teenager is certainly one of them — and your battle in parenting communication is easily won.
Mean it when you say it and you are the biggest ally your teenager will ever have.
Keya Murthy, M.S., works as a Parenting and Relationship Coach using principles of Clinical Hypnotherapy, Spiritual Life Coaching, and Energy Medicine in her practice at the Ventura Healing Center. She's also a #1 International Best-selling author on Amazon and has published eleven books the latest of which is The Book On Happiness: How To Have Peace And Stability As A Working Mom. She is the host of The Be Happier Podcast With Coach Keya.