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What is the best way to communicate with my teen?

Communication is a multifaceted and intertwines three different categories. As a matter of fact, communication can be seen as a sum up of all three verbal expression through words, body language and example and cues. Think of the subtle nuances when a parent offers a reassuring smile alongside words of encouragement or the unspoken tension that may accompany a shared silence during a challenging conversation. Through these examples, it becomes evident that communication extends beyond the spoken language, involving the delicate dance of gestures, expressions, and the unspoken dialogue that binds parents and teens.

talking to teen

The combination and usage of all three communication styles will be extremely important when it comes to helping your teen and healing your relationship.

You are welcome to apply the tools and strategies mentioned on this website by using all three communication styles explained below.

- Communication through words: This refers to what a parent says to their child on a daily basis. The words and tone used when a parent is feeling proud, disappointed, angry, tired, etc., are crucial. The tone used to deliver the words is as important as the words themselves. Do you communicate through words when experiencing negative emotions? Do you communicate through words when experiencing positive emotions? Some parents may find it easier to convey emotions of disappointment and anger but struggle with articulating emotions such as pride or love, and vice versa.

- Communication through body language, or “the vibe” as I refer to it with the children I work with in therapy: This is what the parent communicates to the child without using words. This communication through body language includes eye contact (or lack of eye contact), sighing, agitation, breathing style (fast breath, short breath, long deep breath), facial expressions, body movements (repeated foot tapping, etc.). From my experience as a mental health therapist, I’ve noticed that body language often has more impact than words on kids. Be aware of that!

- Communication through example: This involves the actions and words the parent chooses to apply in their own life, to their own self. If your first thought here is, “Oh Gosh, does this mean I have to be perfect and make all the right decisions for myself?”, the answer is no. The objective here is to show your child how you assess situations in your own life, how you make decisions, and how you act when you’ve made a mistake. It is more impactful for you to make many mistakes and show your child how you deal with those mistakes than not making any mistakes at all. Show your child how you apply your tools to your own life. Be careful not to confuse “showing” with “telling”. The objective here is not to tell your child, but to show your child through actions.

Have you ever paid attention to how you talk and act around your teen? Have you ever observed what self-decisions you have been making in front of your teen?

The objective here is not for you to start blaming yourself for having an impact on your teen. The objective is for you to realize the importance of the connection through communication between you and your child. Through this connection, healing can happen. The three communication styles mentioned above will serve as a foundation for delivering strategies mentioned on this website.

It is crucial for you to understand that all three forms of communication are interconnected and work together. Communication through words is not more important than communication through example, and vice versa. Your message will have a greater impact when the same idea is communicated through all three styles.

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