5 Lifelines When Communication Gets Messy With Your Preteen

Communication with teenagers is hard! Talking louder doesn't fix it.

What to do When Communication Gets Messy

  1. Get on the same page

    • Teaching your child expectations for communication is important.
    • Go to family therapy with your teen to learn together a strategy for communicating.
    • Define your why
      • Identify why you want to communicate-
        • you want to have a good relationship,
        • you want to have a two-way relationship where they get what they want/need and you do as well.
        • You want to live in a happy, peaceful home.
  2. Start when they are young

    • Create times during the day when you are not rushed.
    • Limit technology at home during family time.
    • Request appropriate eye contact.
    • Model appropriate nonverbal listening skills.
      • These include leaning in, uncrossing arms and legs and keeping tone and facial expressions non threatening.
  3. Encourage Feedback

    • Your preteen is getting older. They are closer to moving out of the home and living independently. 
    • The discussions at home should be shifting from a dictatorship a democracy. It is near impossible to hold them to restrictions when they live outside of the home. You should be lengthening the leash (so-to-speak) while they are in high school. This allows them to practice freedom, fail, and come to you as it will be when they are out of the home.
    • Coach them through it
      • You can say, "what I hear you saying is that you do not have any homework. When you cross your arms and glare at me while you answer, I hear that you do not like to talk to me about your homework. Is that accurate?"
      • This helps them to recognize their own patterns of nonverbal communication. In this way, you aren't seeking to correct their behavior, but to understand it.
  4. Use Your Tools

    • There are tools you can use when you are trying to move from dictatorship to mutual agreement.
      • Create a Visual
        • Problem solve visually by making a list of the possible options (including creative, atypical solutions) and then taking turns crossing them off.
        • Make a pro's and con's list separately and then compare
      • Schedule a standing family meeting
        • Discuss what is going well and what could use work.
        • This allows discussion, similar to a therapy appointment, that is not in a critical moment. 
        • The less emotion and less urgency the better.
  5. Connect Freedom and Responsibility

    • Connect the preteen's demonstration of responsibility with allowances for freedom.
    • Instead of No, say Yes- when. "YES! When you are able to keep your grades above C's for a quarter you can play video games on weeknights". "YES! When you are able to use a phone following our restrictions for a month you can have instagram." You are helping connect these areas in their brain. It is not about them versus you. You want very much for them to show responsible behavior and have every freedom.
When things are really messy do not hesitate to ask for help. There is no chance that you will get it all right and especially if you are trying to do it by yourself! Call to schedule your family therapy appointment today. Emily Yi, LCSW 904-357-0536