talking with teens

Good communication with your teen about school issues can make your job as a parent much easier. However, if you and your teen seem to have a disconnect, perhaps it’s time to explore how you can communicate more effectively about school and other things. Here are several tips that will benefit your relationship with your teen:

  • Try not to make every conversation about school. School and learning should be a top priority at home, but remember that grilling your teen about homework, grades and studying at every opportunity is likely to cause him or her to retreat. Every conversation does not have to result in a lesson about the importance of school. Talk with your teen for the sake of conversation. Express an interest in his or her life outside of school.
  • Strive for more positive interactions than negative ones. Avoid backhanded compliments or praise followed by criticism. For example, when your teen completes his or her homework or chores without frequent reminders, resist the urge to point out how he or she didn’t do so the night before. Find kind and constructive ways to mention areas of improvement, and be sure that a majority of your conversations with your teen are affable.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Practice active listening without interrupting or being too quick to interpret your teen’s thoughts and feelings. Doing so will make your teen feel valued and respected and more likely to open up about school or other issues. Try not to overload your teen with advice; instead be a sounding board first. Make your teen feel comfortable talking to you.
  • Recognize that your teen is growing up. Many teens feel resentful when parents treat them like children, telling them what to do and how to do it and trying to control their every move. Extend your teen trust, but be clear that you expect him or her to earn that trust. Let him or her make decisions when appropriate, and if mistakes are made, don’t rub his or her nose in them. Instead, let your teen know that mistakes are to be learned from.
  • Respect your teen as you want to be respected. Treating your teen with respect means never dismissing his or her opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. It means talking to him or her in a way that is polite and caring, not judgmental. Your teen is growing up and changing, and though it may be tempting to pry into his or her life, respect the fact that he or she needs privacy. Just as you want respect from your teen, he or she wants and deserves your respect, too.

Your role as a parent is evolving, and at times it may be difficult to know how to maintain good communication with your teen as he or she moves toward independence and adulthood. Developing an open relationship will take continued focus, but remember that the steps you take to strengthen that bond today will give your teen the support he or she needs and set the foundation for your future relationship.

Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800-CAN-LEARN.


What is your advice for other parents of teens who may be experiencing communication problems?