Parent-Teen Communication

Open communication between parents and their teenage children is essential. But it should be the kind of communication that is not judgmental or advice-oriented. Instead, it should encourage teens to talk more and, in doing so, reveal the way they see themselves and their place in the world. This approach allows you to gain valuable insight into the identity that is developing within your teenager.

Of course, you must still impose certain limits on your child, and communicate your expectations, but if this is done effectively earlier on, beginning at the age of three, it becomes less critical during adolescence. Still, it is not really possible to avoid all conflict with teens, so don't think your family is abnormal or "dysfunctional" if you find yourself in a position of being the family "cop" at times. That will still leave plenty of opportunities for the kind of communication that will give you a window onto your teen's developing identity.

If you had a typical adolescence, you probably remember one or both of your parents questioning your actions and decisions. Maybe this happened often, or maybe just occasionally. How did you react to it? If you didn't mind being questioned, chances are that your parents questioned you responsibly, and that you realize that they were right to do so, even if you didn't want to admit it. On the other hand, if you resented the questioning, closed down, or even blew up whenever it came to having a dialogue with your parents, chance are that your parents either asked the wrong questions or asked the right questions in the wrong way.

Teenagers love to argue-so much that you might come to think of this as an innate part of their development, just as infants gurgle and toddlers invent playmates. Teens like to question adults about their values, and they like to test limits. This does not necessarily mean that they do not respect the adults they question, or that they reject their values. On the contrary, it is probably a sign of healthy parent-teen relationship that this questioning is taking place. In an unhealthy relationship, the teen simply becomes alienated from the parent. There is no arguing, no testing, and no real communication of any kind.

Why do teenagers love to argue? First, they get a sense of themselves as independently functioning human beings. By arguing, they show that they are no longer children. Second, they use their argumentativeness to work out their own values and identity.

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