You and Your Teen: Communication


Ineffective Communication: Communication Blocks

Half of "good" communication is avoiding "bad" communication. Communication blocks are statements that not only block effective communication but also interfere with the development of your teen’s problem solving skills.

The sender intends the message to be helpful; but the receiver perceives the message as disrespectful, not helpful and perhaps uncaring. In short, communication blocks STOP effective communication.

We probably all use communication blocks at times without even realizing it! Parents likely use these blocks more frequently with their children and teens than when talking with other adults. Although we want to help our teens make appropriate decisions, teens who hear communication blockers will be unreceptive to our suggestions.

Examine the following communication blocks to discover which ones you use frequently. Most of us specialize in two or three! By identifying them we can learn to reduce or eliminate them from our conversations.


What Are Your Communication Blocks?



Message Teens May Receive

1. Advising or suggesting e.g. "Why don't you..." 

"You should..." 

"You would be best to..." 

You don't have the ability to devise your own solutions.
2. Denying feelings e.g. "Don't worry..." 

"Everything will work out okay" 

"You don't need to be so upset"
You shouldn't feel the way you do feel.
3. Sarcasm or ridiculing e.g. "That must have been the worst experience a teenager ever had" (Tone of voice is important with sarcasm!) Your problems are insignificant and really don't matter to me.
4. Changing the subject or distracting e.g. "Don't worry about that 

"Let's go and get a video"
Your problems aren't all that important . 
5. Questioning "What exactly did you do?" You must have done something wrong - you are to blame for the situation.
6. Ordering or commanding "You must..." 

"I want you to..."
You think that I can't solve my own problems.


If we reduce the use of communication blocks we will have taken the first step to communicating more effectively with our teens.


Communicating: What Do Teens Say?

What do teens say about communicating with parents? They would like their parents (and other adults) to:

  • listen, not lecture
  • talk with them in a respectful way
  • value each teen as an individual and not make comparisons with a sibling or a cousin


Teens who are visiting this site will find that parents would like their teens to:

  • listen, not argue
  • talk with them in a respectful way
  • don't make comparisons with other parents


Sounds easy! It is not. Think about it. As parents we want our teens to thrive and to do their best. If your teen tells you about a party where alcohol was served and you scream or yell or jump in with a lecture, please go back to Communication Blocks and What Do Teens Say!


Attentive Listening

How do we know when someone is really listening?

He or she:

  • listens without interrupting
  • makes eye contact
  • asks you to repeat or clarify whatever they didn't understand or hear clearly
  • shows interest by facial expression and body language
  • understands and acknowledges feelings: e.g. "that sounds embarrassing"
  • avoids put downs and criticisms
  • uses "door openers"
    • "I'd like to hear about it"
    • "let's talk more about it"
    • "what do you think about.."


Think about your conversations with your teen(s) in the past 24 hours. Tune up your listening skills and you will find communicating with your teen will become easier.


Other Tips for Communicating with Teens

  • laugh together. Make some time for fun together at least once a week (every day would be even better!)
  • encourage problem solving. Instead of blaming each other, identify the problem and some possible solutions. Encourage teens to solve problems. Discuss and evaluate some possible solutions together. Give them your active support.
  • learn something new together. Your teen may have considerable expertise that may benefit you! Share your knowledge and skills when your teen shows interest!



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