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Communicating With Your Teen 

Proactive parent-child communication

Managing effective communication between parents and their children has become extremely difficult. This is due, in part, to the way modes of communication have evolved from face-to-face communication to, within the last 15 years, having the ability to communicate with anyone, at any time, anywhere, because of the advances made in technology; and with these amazing technological advancements, there are still many potential disadvantages. Virtual platforms, while fostering instant “connections” around the globe, have created disparities in how we communicate. This is especially prevalent in adolescents and teens, who are reported as having the highest online presence among populations. In turn, children and their caregivers have found that communication within the family system has become difficult and, oftentimes, nonexistent, as many family members, especially those who have become dependent on social media and online gaming platforms, often self isolate, rely on instant gratification; and have lost their sense of interpersonal communications.

Being able to effectively communicate with your child offers the opportunity to model empathic communication, flexible thinking, active listening, and problem-solving skills. As a parent, learning how to adapt and understand the “virtual” world that your kids are living in is very important; and if you can be realistic; and fair, along with setting some rules, without seeming like you are trying to be too controlling, it will result in a much more trusting and understanding relationship that effectively navigates communication challenges, especially during the “teen years.” Here are simple tips that are designed to create a stronger, healthier, and trusting relationship:

  1. Controlled Actions and Reactions

One of the biggest keys to communicating with your child is to control your reactions to things you may see, or things you may hear, or be told. This means that you will have to turn off the “Parent Alarm.” This is illustrated by implementing a “non-reactive” mannerism. Be mindful of your own reactivity. Avoid rolling your eyes, shouting, being flippant or sarcastic, and be aware of your body language. Practice matching the reaction to the “size of the problem.” Ask yourself: is this just “information?; Is this “easily solved?”; “what does my child need right now from me?”: Most often, what they are seeking is the safety of a trusted adult who will listen.

  1. Listening to what the child is saying and constructive feedback

Active listening is one of the best ways to show your child that you are invested in what they have to say and learning more about what they need. Engage by not attempting to “fix,” but merely to “receive information,” without reaction or judgement or ideas to solve/help (yet.) It is important to keep your cool, stay calm, listen, and try to understand their point and view. Be sure to praise and show recognition of the good and give constructive feedback, as you both share your ideas about next steps--as a team.

  1. THE YOU I WE APPROACH and apologies

The “You, I, We Approach” can be used in almost any situation. When you and your child pledge to work as a team, to offer each other moments to share “concerns,” and brainstorm ideas for a resolution, you reinforce the necessary communication skills that you are hoping to imprint, as they grow and emerge into adulthood. An important part of this process to building communication skills is by implementing acceptance and apology. Being mindful of fortifying a validating and understanding relationship involves a non-judgmental approach and an apologetic and humble mannerism when trespasses or mishaps happen along the way.

Final thought

Effective communication between a parent and their children builds lifelong coping and communication skills that offer the ability to foster meaningful relationships. Choose being proactive over reactive. The earlier you engage in the process of Active listening, Empathic Communication, and a collaborative approach to problem solving, the earlier you model these communication skills in your child. If you believe your loved one could benefit from professional support, please contact Compass Social Skills and Counseling, LLC at 774-847-9340 or


BOOK (Discusses Collaborative & Proactive Solutions Model (CPS) for effective communication)

Greene, Ross W. (2014). The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. 5th Ed. NY: Harper. Print.