All rights reserved.
Mark Hutten, M.A.
Re: Communicating with Teens

How can I communicate with my teenager?

Adolescence is a time of change and challenge for your preteen or adolescent. The changes that occur during
adolescence are often confusing not only for your son or daughter, but for you as well. Though these years can be
difficult, the reward is watching your child become an independent, caring, and responsible adult. The American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following tips to help you face the challenges of your child's adolescence:
1. Be a parent first, not a pal. Your adolescent's separation
from you as a parent is a normal part of development. Don't
take it personally.

2. Be willing to negotiate and compromise. This will teach
problem solving in a healthy way. Remember to choose your
battles. Some little annoying things that adolescents do may
not be worth a big fight — let them go.

3. Criticize a behavior, not an attitude. For example, instead
of saying, "You're late. That's so irresponsible. And I don't
like your attitude," try saying, "I worry about your safety when
you're late. I trust you, but when I don't hear from you and
don't know where you are, I wonder whether something bad
has happened to you. What can we do together to help you
get home on time and make sure I know where you are or
when you're going to be late?"
4. Let your child be the adolescent he wants to be, not the
one you wish he was. Also, try not to pressure your
adolescent to be like you were or wish you had been at
that age. Give your adolescent some leeway with regard to
clothes, hairstyle, etc. Many adolescents go through a
rebellious period in which they want to express themselves
in ways that are different from their parents. However, be
aware of the messages and ratings of the music, movies,
and video games to which your child is exposed.

5. Mix criticism with praise. While your adolescent needs to
know how you feel when she is not doing what you want
her to do, she also needs to know that you appreciate the
positive things she is doing. For example, "I'm proud that
you are able to hold a job and get your homework done. I
would like to see you use some of that energy to help do
the dishes after meals."
6. Respect your adolescent's feelings. It's okay to disagree with your child, but disagree respectfully, not insultingly.
Don't dismiss her feelings or opinions as silly or senseless. You may not always be able to help when your child is
upset about something, but it is important to say, "I want to understand" or "Help me understand."

7. Spend family time with your adolescent. Although many preteens and adolescents may seem more interested in
friends, this does not mean they are not interested in family.

8. Spend time alone with your adolescent. Even if your adolescent does not want time alone with you, take a moment
here and there to remind him that your "door is always open," and you are always there if he needs to talk. Remind
him often.

9. Try not to get upset if your adolescent makes mistakes. This will help him take responsibility for his own actions.
Remember to offer guidance when necessary. Direct the discussion toward solutions. "I get upset when I find clothes
all over the floor," is much better than, "You're a slob."

10. When rules are needed, set and enforce them. Don't be afraid to be unpopular for a day or two. Believe it or not,
adolescents see setting limits as a form of caring.

11. When your adolescent talks: Ask him to explain things further if you don't understand. If you don't have time to
listen when your child wants to talk, set a time that will be good for both of you. Pay attention. Try not to interrupt.
Watch, as well as listen.

Don't be afraid to share with your adolescent that you have made mistakes as a parent. A few parenting mistakes are
not crucial. Also, try to share with your adolescent mistakes you made as an adolescent.