Communicating with teens

Communicating with teens

The teen girl has had a rough summer, but I am proud of how she has handled some truly hurtful behaviors. She has a great support network of friends as she prepares to start high school and plans on playing sports, which I hope will help keep her brain and body busy in a positive way.

For some reason that we cannot identify, she has been feeling down the past week or so. I decided to give her a pep talk via text (how we communicate a lot of times). I shared the pep talk on social media and was surprised at the feedback that I got. Some people said they could totally relate, but others felt like my pep talk was mean. One person even called it toxic positivity.

The feedback made me think about how we communicate with our teens and the phrase “being fair is not always doing the same thing.” This totally applies to the way I communicate with the teen girl. A story is warranted to help understand where I am coming from.

The first year the teen girl played middle school sports, the husband and I went to her first volleyball game. Since she had only played the sport as an Exploratorium the year before, she was not that good.  In that first game, she touched the ball only twice. She got a decent assist and then hit the ball out of bounds. At dinner that night, the husband commented that she got a good assist in her first game. Her response – “dad, if you truly loved me, you would have talked about when I hit the ball out of bounds so that I would get better.” What??? Fast forward to basketball season. After the first game, the husband said “you really suck at free throws.” Her response – “I know, and I am going to practice this weekend so I can get better.”

Now I am pretty confident there are no parenting books that tell you to tell your daughter that she sucks at anything. But that is the kind feedback the teen girl wanted. And I feel like it is our job to understand their personalities and communicate with them in a way that works for them.

My pep talk text was meant to get her to move forward because I felt like she was stuck in her head (she is so like me, it is a little scary). And it worked. She started the next day feeling powerful and with a plan to get out of her funk.

Another communication issue that some of my friends experience with their teens is that their teens do not want to talk. My teens are both talkers (at least for now), but some are not. If your teen is not a talker, do not force it. That will probably make them talk less. In these situations, parents have to wait for their teen to share when she wants to. Here is an example. A friend tried talking to her daughter about dating, and she totally shut down. But later on the teen girl said she had good role models with her parents, which has been a big help in learning to navigate a romantic relationship. Wow, what a great compliment, right?

My take away? There is no right or wrong way to communicate with your teens. Communicate with them in the way that works for their personalities and your parenting style. In my mind, the only wrong way to communicate is to not talk at all.

How do you communicate with your teen? Do you sometimes use the “put on your big girl pants” approach?

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