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5 Parenting Tips for Communicating with Children & Teens

There is nothing that adequately prepares us for the most important job there is—parenting. Children and teens do not come with an owner’s manual, and most of our training is on the job. With our own parents as our most prominent role models, we tend to repeat what we have learned about parenting from them. We do our best, learn as we go, and make our own mistakes along the way; but we don’t have to leave our parenting to chance. We can become more effective parents. We can parent with more confidence instead of frustration. Parenting can be enjoyable and rewarding instead of stressful.

Following are some parenting tips for improving communication and building healthy and respectful relationships with our children and teens.

(1) Show interest in your kids

One of the best ways to get anyone to talk is to show interest in them and what is important to them. Sports, music, or any other activity provides great ways to connect and share. Become engaged in whatever it is your child or teen enjoys. It can be anything–watching a football game together, listening to songs and talking about favorite artists, watching your child draw or build model cars, or helping your daughter with her hair and nails.

(2) Initiate conversations

Often parents begin conversations with a question instead of simply sharing their thoughts. Kids are more likely to engage in conversations when they do not feel they have to explain or defend themselves. Letting them know you are thinking about them and that you care about what is happening in their lives are good ways to initiate conversations. Timing is important as well. Good times to talk might be bedtime, while driving, or at dinner.

(3) Make yourself available

Sometimes parents get so busy and don’t realize that their children feel there is no time left for them. They do not express this directly saying, “You know, I’ve been feeling neglected lately. It seems you’re so busy with everything and everyone else and don’t make time for me. And when you are with me, you seem preoccupied and distracted.” They might, instead, distance themselves or act out for some negative attention. Making time for kids can be a sacrifice, especially for very busy parents, but the investment is well worth it. Developing a good relationship with one’s children requires time–both quality time and quantity of time. Planning weekly one-on-one time with no distractions is a good idea. Kids want to know that they are important and valued. Making yourself available to them communicates this loud and clear.

(4) Be a good listener

You know you have heard someone correctly when they feel understood. One way to do this is to repeat what you think you heard back to them. They will clarify what they meant if they think you are genuinely interested and trying to understand them. Kids also need to feel safe when sharing their thoughts, with no fear of judgment, being cut off, or causing an angry reaction. It is important to resist arguments and criticism. When there are disagreements, parents can express that it is okay to disagree. Although their thoughts and feelings differ, they are not rejecting their child. Parents and their children will encounter many differences in opinion. However, being a good listener lets your children know that you understand where they are coming from without lecturing or threatening.

(5) Use words to motivate

If you see your children and teens as winners, beautiful, and full of potential, they will know it and act on it. It will show in how you treat them and what you say. As a result, they will believe in themselves as well. Your words have power. The words of a parent can motivate and empower for a lifetime. They can also discouraged and break a child’s spirit if they are negative and critical. We can all recall things our parents have said about us that we have carried with us throughout our lives, such as: I believe in you. You can do anything you set your mind to. You are so smart and creative. Or, you will never amount to anything. You do not have what it takes. You are the ugly one of the family. Let us choose our words carefully. Speaking good things over them, blessing them with our words motivates them to fulfill their purpose in life.

It is not easy parenting children and teens and knowing what to say or how to bring out the best in them. Feeling connected and getting along with our kids takes time and effort. The goods news is that parents and teens can have healthy connections that are founded upon trust and unconditional love. The parenting tips provided above are a good start to better communication and a more rewarding parenting experience. For more tips or help with problems, parents may benefit from parenting classes or family counseling.

Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved. Krystal Kuehn, NewDayCounseling.org

Children need love, especially when they don’t deserve it. ~anonymous

Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave to another. ~Richard Garnett

Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC is a psychotherapist, author, teacher and musician. She is the cofounder of New Day Counseling Services, family counseling and child teen counseling center providers of parenting classes, and BeHappy4Life.com, an award-winning, a self-help and personal growth site where you can find hundreds of free resources, insights and inspiration.

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