From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Communicating With Teenagers
Teenagers are a mystery in many families. Once our children reach this vulnerable and
difficult period, we parents often feel lost. We get confused by our child's growing
independence and often, by their anger. It is easy to lose rapport within the family and
accept interpersonal distance. Bridging the gap between you and your teen offers a new
challenge. Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
- Part child, part adult: what is a teen? The teenage years are a combination of growing
bodies, growing intellect and the search for self. Like the toddler who struggles to walk
without holding Mom's hand, teens must struggle to find their own self-support. They must
learn to interact with other teens, succeed in the dating game, and learn adult rules.
Life becomes experimental. Their abilities are tested on a daily basis. It is a rigorous
effort for a teenager to survive with self-esteem.
- Listen to their music; Read their prose. As teens develop their sense of self, their
music and poetry provides a reflection of their inner thoughts. Rock 'n roll music is a
medium for expression and identity. To understand your children, listen to their music
non-judgementally and try to understand the thoughts and feelings which are being
- Attitudes are just smoke-screens. Teenagers are often angry and emotional. This is
normal. Their hormones are playing tricks with their bodies and life's tests are playing
tricks with their hearts. Their feelings are often hurt by family circumstances and
attitudes. They long to be accepted for who they are. Don't be misled by attitudes. Try to
accept them... again, non-judgementally.
- Be honest; Admit your mistakes. From the time they are born, children are privy to our
most intimate relationships and they catch all of our mistakes. It is useless to pretend
that we are perfect; they know better. Instead, admit your shortcomings and discuss
problems and family history. Teenagers know the facts but they need to see the human side
of their parents. They are usually forgiving when we tell the truth.
- Respect their friendships but help them recognize dangerous friends. Teens need the
right amount of privacy but not neglect. Friendships are important to our kids, but they
are often not able to recognize bad influences. If you feel that your child is in danger,
Say So! Teens need boundaries in order to feel safe and they may lack the experience to
recognize danger. When you insist on boundaries and your child trusts you, boundaries are
another way of saying "I love you".
In my practice, I often see parents who experienced premarital pregnancies but who fail
to provide their children with adequate sex education. I often work with parents who
experienced drug problems in their youth, but who close their eyes to their childrens'
drug and alcohol abuse. Closing our eyes and sealing our lips is not the way to maintain
close relationships with our children.
Today's parents have grown up in a generation replete with lifestyle changes and
personal growth. Many things have changed, but one tradition remains the same: parents
look back on their growing years and hope that their children will not make the same
mistakes they made. Our children need to know how we feel, what we've experienced, what
we've learned... and that we love them!
ęCopyright, 1993, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,