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Tips for Effective Communication with Teenagers

Updated: Jun 28

Teenage son and mom

Written by Rashad Mills, Psychotherapist, Open Mind Health and

Daisha Miller Psychotherapist at Open Mind Health


1.    Pick your battles - As adults and caretakers attempt to get teenagers to listen more - it’s imperative to understand which battles are worth engaging in. Teenagers are inclined to listen if they feel it won’t result in an argument.

2.    Active listening - As teenagers are encouraged to listen more - the adults must demonstrate the same behavior. When teenagers feel heard and feel their opinions are valued-they are more receptive to listening.

3.    Be clear, fair, and consistent - uncertainty, the lack of fairness, and inconsistency can alter a teenager's inability to listen. Teenagers are aware if they are receiving any of the aforementioned.

4.    Let them have some autonomy - Much of the teenager's/adult struggle is deeply rooted in the teenagers need for autonomy. They are trying to find themselves- test the established boundaries to see how much independence they have. Allow them to have a sense of freedom- which can establish more trust.

5.    Praise positive behavior - teenagers want to hear their efforts are appreciated and to be verbally praised as a result. Recognizing positive behaviors gives them more encouragement to continue in those behaviors.

6.    Model behavior you expect - teenagers are actively watching you to ensure your actions match your words. If you are an active participant in the behaviors that you want from them- they are more willing to listen to you.

7.    Stay calm - providing a sense of calm can be vital in offsetting the behaviors and the emotions that a teenager can display and or experience. The adult must work hard to be emotional consistent – regardless of the situation.

8.    Don’t judge - The teenage years can be very different for them. It shouldn’t be complicated by judgmental adults. Seek to understand their experiences – opposed to judging them.

9.    No adult, parent, or caretaker is exempt from the challenges of caring for their teenagers. Don’t feel like the process is one that has to be done alone. Seek other resources including other parents, online, and in person resources designed for teenagers, in addition to mental health practitioners.

10. Admit your mistakes and apologize: This is beneficial for multiple reasons. Again, you are modeling the behavior you want to see in your teenagers. In addition, this makes you relatable as a parent. When you acknowledge that you are at fault, you signal to your teenager that you also make errors. You normalize mistakes, and you make yourself relatable to them. You also create a space for them to feel safe to come to you when they do make a mistake.


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