Parent-Teen Communication

It is likely that your teen is having trouble expressing him/herself to us and that is leading to frustration for everyone. As parents you can help your teen communicate better by actively listening, asking open-ended questions and showing your understanding.

As parents you may be dealing with work stress or unemployment, money trouble, other children, elder care issues or marital issues. Adding a teenager to the mix makes for a very difficult time in many families.

Your role becomes one of explaining, monitoring and guiding rather than commanding. In order to guide, you will need to continue to build on the communication with your teen by bridging the gap. You will need to find new ways to communicate with your teen; Facebook, MSN and texting are excellent options. Parents need to ensure that after years of preparing them to think independently, take responsibility and communicate when their needs aren’t being met that you allow them to practice these skills in a safe family environment.

Miscommunication, yelling, slamming doors and bad feelings are common occurrences in a household with a teenager. It’s important that parents model the behaviour that you want your teen to learn. Parents need to show respect, listen (and I mean really listen) and communicate clearly.

The Contract

Parent-Teen contracts are a great option for clearly communicating expectations. This is a written agreement between parents and teens involving a negotiation where both sides win.

Power imbalances exist. Parent-teen contracts help to level the playing field and empower teens. It will strengthen the relationship, build trust and allow your teenager to have a voice and in turn listen to what you are saying.

Generating an agreement is a process that involves communication, brainstorming ideas together, deciding on a plan of action and identifying consequences if those actions aren’t followed.

Parenting Contracts don’t need to be done in a formal setting like mediation but that opportunity certainly exists to get you started. Using a trained facilitator can help both the parents and the teen learn how to effectively communicate in a neutral setting. Mediation models the process so that you can continue to practice at home with other siblings/children or to resolve other issues. The family makes decisions together with the teen playing an active role.

Conflict management, communication and mediation are excellent life skills that can go a long way to helping your teen grow into a successful adult. Participating in this process shows your teen your commitment to the relationship, the resolution and their value in the family.

Parent-Teen Contracts are not about creating an agreement to be used as a hammer or a tool for discipline. It is a tool used to open up the lines of communication, clearly set expectations and strengthen the trust in the relationship.