Parents Must Break These 5 Communication Barriers

How can you make sure your teen hears what you're saying about making good choices?

Have you tried talking to your teen about drugs? Making good choices? The risks involved?

How did that conversation go?

If you’re like most parents, you’ve encountered a few obstacles. Maybe you haven’t found the right moment to have the conversation, or your teen wasn’t receptive to what you had to say. Since this topic is crucial to cover with your teens, it’s important to find ways to overcome these hurdles.

Roadblocks to Effective Communication

Following are five of the most common conversation obstacles. To create effective communication with your teen, break through each of these barriers:

teenage drug addict

  • Generalities
    How specific are the questions you ask your teen? If you inquire about their weekend activities, do you ask follow-up questions? Don’t make it easy for your teen to lie or avoid telling the whole truth. Don’t let them off the hook with generalized answers. It’s nice to ask how the party was, but better to follow up by asking if anyone was using drugs or drinking at the party, and best to ask directly – “Did you drink alcohol at the party?” They could still lie, but many teens actually tell the truth when asked direct questions.
  • Time
    Unfortunately, spending time talking with each other often takes a back seat to everything else going on in the lives of parents and teens. Between work, school, extracurricular activities and other responsibilities, there’s often little margin left for communication. Yet, parents must find this time. As the saying goes, we have time for what we make time for. And this is something parents must work into the schedule. How else will you know what’s going on with your teen? You can’t know much about the choices they make and the decisions they’re facing if you don’t spend time with them. They can’t know much about what you expect from them if you don’t take the time to tell them. Parenting a teen is time-intensive.
  • Battlefronts
    You only get so much talk-time with your teen. So, it’s important to use that time wisely. Substance use is an essential topic to cover. With that in mind, consider what other topics truly aren’t worth the time and effort. Are you arguing daily over trivial things? Don’t waste hours each week debating things that won’t matter in the long run. Pick your battles. Save your energy and investment for important issues.
  • Moralizing
    Your teen may not agree with your stance about drug use (and many other topics, for that matter). If you approach their substance use from an emotionally charged moral angle, you may end up in a heated debate rather than a helpful conversation. Try focusing instead on the dangers of drug use. Explain the risks involved. Discuss your concerns for their health and safety. This might not only be received better, it could be new information. Parents sometimes assume the risks involved are obvious, when in fact the logical consequences and risks aren’t understood by teens.
  • Non Verbal Cues
    Overcoming this barrier requires a bit of sleuthing. No, not reading through your teen’s diary or eavesdropping on phone calls. Simply keep your eyes peeled. Sherlock Holmes is known for his powers of observation. He solves mysteries by deducing facts from what he sees. By remaining observant of your teen’s nonverbal cues, you can often unravel the mystery of your teen’s behavior. In short, pay attention. If you notice they seem “off,” ask them about it. Don’t chalk every nonverbal nuance up to teen hormones. Investigate to see what’s behind those cues. Learning your teen’s nonverbal language can provide powerful insights.

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