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Talking to your teenager

Many parents and carers worry about how they will cope with the ‘difficult teenage years’. Learning to listen and talk to your teenager can make all the difference to your relationship.

Understand your teenager’s feelings.
The teenage years can be a difficult time for young people in that they have to deal with many changes - physically, socially and emotionally. As well as increased school work and the pressure to achieve results in exams, they are dealing with changing hormone levels, developing deeper relationships with their peers, facing peer pressure in relation to a variety of issues and experiencing sexual feelings. They are also trying to work out their own identity and develop their own opinions and views – “who am I and what do I think and feel….?”

For some young people, these changes can make the transition from childhood into adulthood quite a traumatic experience – they are very sensitive to what is happening to them and around them, but they do not always have the experience, or be equipped with the knowledge and skills to be able to deal with issues and anxieties that they are facing.

To help your teenager to cope, please remember that:

  • They are going through lots of changes and beginning to develop their own identity.
  • They may be struggling with the physical changes that are happening to them, and over which they have no control.
  • They need privacy and space to think through thoughts and feelings.
  • Some teenagers may find it hard to say what they are thinking and feel that adults always seem to have the answer, so they prefer to say nothing.
  • Other teenagers may become very vocal and angry, seeming to disagree with everything that you say.

However your teenager is responding to this transition time, going through change isn’t always easy so remember that:

  • Communication is the key to good family relationships.
  • Listen as well as talk.
  • Let them know that you are there for them – no matter what the problem is.

How to listen
When your teenager does talk to you, let them have their say without interruption. Give your teenager time to express themselves - they may sometimes find it hard to express what they mean. Their way of seeing things and their views may be different to yours, but they are important to them. Teenagers value being listened to, being asked their opinion and having their thoughts and feelings recognised.

How to talk

  • Trying to get a reply out of your teenager as they are getting ready to go out or are listening to music isn’t going to work.
  • Choose your time carefully when there are things you need to discuss.
  • Be flexible and offer options - ‘is now a good time to talk ', or 'do you want to wait until you’ve finished what you’re doing?’ - rather than demand an immediate response.
  • Try to talk in a calm and reasonable way, even if you don’t feel like it. If you start by shouting, your teenager is more likely to respond in the same way.
  • If your teenager finds what you have to say dull, don’t be offended. It’s natural at this age to be more interested in their friends’ lives than yours. Remember you probably acted in the same way when you were a teenager!
  • Home isn’t always the best place to talk. Taking your teenager to a café or going for a walk gives you one-to-one time together and may help them to talk about matters they don’t want to bring up in front of other family members.

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