Most parents will agree that Parent-child communication is always a tightrope walk. Doesn’t matter whether your child is small or a teenager. Each child is different and each age group is different and parents have to adapt and understand what should be their level of communication. In most cases, problems occur as parents still tend to look at their children as extensions of themselves and not as separate human beings who have their own ideas, values and beliefs, which may be quite different from that of their parents. And that is why communication is the key. Here are some points to effectively communicate with your child:
- Take an active interest in their life and listen more than you speak. Remember that we should spend twice as much time listening as compared to talking and this is especially important when you’re talking to your teenager – they should feel like they have the opportunity to speak when they're with you.
- Communication is only 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal, which means that your body language is important. If your body language shows disconnect, then your child will definitely feel a disconnect. For example, look into their eyes and give them your undivided attention.
- Find ways to show unconditional love. Take out time from your busy schedule to spend time together. Children are often busy with school and friends and other interests but you can always have a conversation with them over breakfast and dinner and offer to pick them up or to drive them to different places and provide opportunities for conversations.
- Many adolescents often struggle with the changing sense of identity and they need to be counselled. Tell them that often and demonstrate your love using whatever physical contact they are comfortable with. Celebrate their achievements, forgive their mistakes, listen to them when they have a problem and show interest in how they plan to solve it.
- Ensure that you are calm and in a proper space of mind before taking up any important conversation with your child. If you have an important meeting at that time, try to inform your child that you are available completely for your child after that meeting and ensure that you do so. If you are in a poor frame of mind with any other emotional or personal preoccupations, it is best to excuse yourself and inform your child that you will talk at a later point, when you feel better. And keep your promise.
- Set a good example by apologising when you are wrong.
- Establish reasonable house rules, which are there in consultation with your teenager e.g., decide on a curfew time for Saturday. But also, be prepared to compromise by negotiating house rules with a teenager. Stop and consider before you say no to a request from them: Is your teenager now old enough to be responsible enough for you to say yes at this time? If not, tell them why but remember to always give them good reasons for it.
Building open communication channels and trust with adolescent children is crucial for healthy parent-child relationships and for promoting their emotional well-being. Create a non-judgmental environment. Adolescents may hesitate to share their thoughts and feelings if they fear being judged. Create a safe and non-judgmental environment where your children feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of criticism or punishment. Show empathy and understanding towards their experiences and emotions.
Dr Paula Goel is a paediatrician & adolescent specialist