Communicating with your teen

Thrive Psychology Clinic > Blog > Communicating with your teen
Communicating with your Teen

October 16, 2020 / By thadmin2

Why is communicating with your teenager children so hard?

Have you ever wondered – what happened to the sweet child I raised? When children reach their teenage years, parents are sometimes faced with some unexpected changes in their children’s character, personality and even their appearances! Alongside these sudden, colourful changes, some parents also begin to struggle to communicate effectively with their teens.  Communicating your expectations to them in a firm yet loving way becomes a difficult conversation, which could end up building a taller and thicker wall between you and your child. 

When our children reach adolescence, they are usually deeply exposed to the mainstream culture and values of today’s world.  They learn from friends, the internet and social media what society defines as acceptable and favourable behavior. In the process of building their own self-identity, teenagers strive to be accepted and liked by those around them. To achieve that, they begin moulding themselves into the version most accepted by society (even if it means sacrificing their sweet and vibrant personality you have worked so hard to nurture).

As parents, we may strive even harder to retain the innocence of our children. It is only natural that every parent wants what is best for their child, and we strive to preserve their vibrant personalities and good values; while they strive to pursue a socially acceptable version of themselves. These two goals can be conflicting and often underlie many arguments and instances of miscommunication. As the adult in a parent-child relationship, it can be beneficial for both parties if you lead effective communication with your child that will ensure everyone’s needs are met. Here are some simple tips that you can adopt to facilitate better communication with your teen.


  1.     Understand, even when it is most difficult to

Being adults exposed to different values of our generation and different mindsets from today’s generation, we might not always understand the choices and decisions of our growing teenage children, and vice versa. Hence, it is important that in our day-to-day conversations with our teenage children, we consciously make an effort to understand their growing minds, and interact with our children from the angle of trying to understand their thoughts and emotions, no matter how difficult it may be. 

Here is a simple example to illustrate this. Your child has an exam tomorrow to study for but she has been using her handphone for quite a while despite how much she has to revise. Observing this situation might agitate you as you may think – ‘she should learn how to set better priorities and be more focused on schoolwork.’ On the other hand, your child might be thinking – ‘I need to discuss some questions with my friends about the homework I do not understand.’ Without effective communication, your child and you live in two parallel realities. Despite the urge to lecture our children on what they should prioritise, it is key that we resist that urge, take a step back and place ourselves in their position. From this patient and understanding perspective, we can find a compromise between our expectations and our child’s needs. Doing so reduces your child’s inclination to defend themselves against you.


  1.     Listen More

Listening becomes difficult when we do not share the same views or agree with our teenagers. As our teenagers grow up and are exposed to different perspectives, they begin to construct their own beliefs and priorities that may be different from ours. Just as how we respect our friend’s worldview and perspectives, in the same way, it is important that we can show the same respect to our child’s views. Although we might feel the strong urge to correct them and convince them differently, it is important that we keep in mind that a different point of view is not always a wrong one.


  1.     Body Language

Often, our teenage children are in the process of understanding who they are and making sense of the world around them. Many of them struggle to verbalise their feelings and thoughts. However, if we are patient and willing to listen enough, our child might share more than we expect them to. When your teenage children approach you, convey to them that you are interested in what they have to say. Respect can be shown through your body language by stopping what you are doing to listen to them. When we are busy with the hustles and struggles of life, our teenager’s problems may not seem like much. However, it is key that we convey the message to them that they are loved and worthy of our time and attention. We can convey our feelings to them through our positive body language – facing them directly, nodding our heads and even through hugs!

Lastly, be patient with yourself and your child. Just like any other skill, nurturing healthy communication between you and your children requires consistent effort and persistence. Be assured that once healthy, open communication is established, and children learn that they can still talk to their parents without fear or worries, an enriched relationship with your child will be worth all the hard work you have put in!


“The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” – Harry S. Truman



Carolyn G. Coakley, A. D. (88-126). Listening in the Parent-Teen Relationship. International Journal of Listening .

Drury, J. (2003). Adolescent Communication with Adults in Authority. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 66-73. Retrieved from

Peterson, E. H. (1994). Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up with Your Teenager. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Pipher, M. (2005). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Penguin Group.

White B, V. R. (2012). Improving communication with adolescents. Archives of Disease in Childhood Education and Practice, 93-97.