If there is one stage that is characterized by difficulties, misunderstanding, changes and challenges, it is adolescence.

Despite the fact that during adolescence, relationships between peers are increasingly important, rather than the relationships established with parents, these do not cease to be important, but rather constitute a fundamental factor when it comes to creating one’s own identity and help to redefine paternal-filial roles within the family (Tesson and Youniss, 1995).

In recent decades, a great deal of research has been carried out to find out what factors influence good parent-child communication in adolescence (Cava, 2003).

Therefore, it is important to know which are the best strategies to communicate, since it will depend to a greater or lesser extent what kind of relationship we establish with our children in this important stage.

How to communicate effectively with our teenagers

Communicating is not imposing. Communicating is exchanging information, and communicating effectively represents that the other person has received our information and that we have received theirs, both parties without contradictory, ambiguous messages and where mutual respect prevails.

A very common mistake made during the communicative act is to have an inadequate objective . That is, trying to communicate something with the aim of making the other person yield to our information; not being clear about what our objective is or having contradictory objectives at the same time.

What are the main communication failures?

These are some common failures in communication processes.

1. Shout

There is little point in trying to establish a proper conversation if we raise the volume and tone when speaking. When someone shouts at us it is easier for us to act defensively , so it is not the best strategy to achieve good communication.

2. Impose/Blackmail

One of the most common mistakes made when having a conversation with our sons and daughters is to impose our “will”. If what you are looking for is to try to reach agreements with your son or daughter the worst thing you can do to achieve this is to use phrases like “I don’t care what you say”, “this is how it is and that’s it” , “you will do what I say”, “you will not do that”, “how you do that you will see…

3. Judge/Criticize

If there’s one thing teens agree on, it’s that most feel judged by their parents, or they worry about being judged and so often avoid certain topics of conversation or prefer to lie rather than tell the truth. That is why it is important that when they are expressing themselves we try not to judge them , showing an open attitude to dialogue and making them see that it is normal to make mistakes on certain occasions (remember that you did it too).

4. Do not listen

Another common fault is not listening. Stop and listen to them and try to make sure that if this is not the best time for you, you can postpone the talk until later , showing your child that what he or she wants to say is important to you.

5. Do not empathize

It is imperative that we try to understand our children’s emotions and thoughts if we want them to feel comfortable talking to us. One of the most common mistakes is to think only of what we want or what we consider best for them, without considering what motivates them to act in a certain way or what they need at that moment .

So, what can we do?

Something obvious would be to do the opposite of everything we have just mentioned: to empathize, to listen, to understand and to speak with a good tone and volume. But let’s focus on the following strategies:

1. Negotiate

Establish a dialogue in which to negotiate. If there is one thing that usually doesn’t work with adolescents, it is imposition. You forbid them one thing and they seem even more eager to do it, so it is important to reach agreements.

There will be times when we have to deny requests, but we will not always do so, or we can try to reach intermediate agreements . Remember that in order to negotiate there will be times when you will also have to give in.

2. Show us open

We must show flexibility in negotiating and being able to agree on certain issues. This will make them feel more comfortable and more willing to communicate with us. Also it is important to show that we can be flexible with our own ideas .

3. Model

How do we expect our children to talk to us about their concerns and feelings if we don’t do the same? If we are communicative from the beginning, explain how our day has gone, what our concerns are and explain what worries us, it will be much easier for them to do so too.

Why is good communication so important?

As shown by Cava (2003) in his study on family relationships, there is a positive relationship between adequate family communication and increased psychosocial well-being of the adolescent. Specifically, a greater openness in communication with parents is related to a greater self-esteem and a lesser depressive mood .

Adolescence is a difficult stage and is often one in which more conflicts arise, especially because adolescents increasingly prefer greater autonomy and parents do not always agree with this (Smetana, 1989). Despite this, as expressed by Musitu et al. (2001), family relations are a fundamental aspect of adolescent well-being (Cava, 2003).

If you are an adult and want to improve the relationship you have with your child, or if you are a teenager who does not know what to do in order to communicate effectively with his or her parents, you can make an appointment at our Mariva Psychologists centre in Valencia. To see our contact details, click here.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cava, M.J. (2003). Family communication and psychosocial well-being in adolescents. Actas del VIII Congreso Nacional de Psicología Social, 2003, Vol 1(1), 23-27.
  • Musitu, G., Buelga, S., Lila, M. and Cava, M.J. (2001). Family and adolescence. Un modelo de análisis e intervención psicosocial. Madrid: Síntesis.
  • Smetana, J.G. (1989). Adolescents’ and parents’ reasoning about actual family conflict. Child
  • Development, 60, 1052-1067.
  • Tesson, G. and Youniss, J. (1995). Micro-sociology and psychological development: A sociological interpretation of Piaget’s theory. In A.M. Ambert (Ed.), Sociological studies of children (Vol. 7, pp. 101-126). Greenwich, CT: JAI.