The world has changed significantly in the 21st century and so have our teenagers.
Today’s adolescents are growing up in an era of rapid technological advancement, complex societal issues and unprecedented access to information.
To connect with and support these young minds, it is crucial for parents and educators to understand their unique challenges and adapt communication methods that produce the best outcome.
The first step in understanding and connecting with teenagers is acknowledging their world. Their exposure to technology and information presents diverse challenges, such as cyberbullying, increased academic pressure, mental health concerns and exposure to a variety of information. It is important to recognize that these challenges can impact their emotions, behaviours and communication.
Parents need to embrace technology as an important part of their teen’s lives. Instead of viewing it as a barrier to communication, use it as a bridge. Be open to discussing the technology they use, learn from them and find ways to connect with their interests and online activities.
While indulging at their level, light conversations can be held to discover more about them and the issues affecting them. In the process set boundaries for screen time to help balance their online and offline lives.
Active listening is an essential aspect of effective communication with teens. Give them your undivided attention, show genuine interest in what they have to say. Avoid interrupting and do not rush to offer solutions, or advice. Instead, create a safe space for them to express their thoughts, feelings and concerns without judgement. Acknowledge their emotions and validate their experiences, this can go a long way in building trust. Once trust is built, honesty follows.
Nonverbal cues in teens plays a key role in how they communicate with others. Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice when talking to a teen. Maintain good eye contact, use a calm and reassuring tone and avoid expressions of frustration, or impatience. These cues can influence the quality of the conversation.
Communicating discipline channels effectively to teenagers is a crucial aspect of maintaining a harmonious and respectful relationship. Discuss the rules and consequences openly, allowing them to have a say in establishing certain boundaries. Emphasize the fact that discipline is not about punishment, but rather a way to help them learn and grow.
This collaborative approach empowers teenagers to understand the reasons behind the rules and consequences, making them more likely to abide by them.
Teenagers strive for independence and respecting this desire is essential. While guidance and boundaries are still necessary, acknowledging their need to make independent choices, take responsibility and learn from their personal experiences is important. Collaborate with them to make decisions together instead of dictating, this smoothens the process.
Selecting the appropriate time and place for discussions is vital. Public confrontation is never well received, image is everything to a teen. Avoid confrontational settings and choose moments when you both have time to talk without interruptions. Practise patience while talking to them, you will need it.
Give them time to process the issues being discussed in order to give logical responses.
Just like when they were little, teens learn by observing the behaviour of their parents and teachers. It is the responsibility of the adults to be intentional by demonstrating good communication skills, empathy and problem-solving abilities in daily interactions. Show them how to handle difficult situations and disagreements constructively.
It is seemingly clear, parents and teachers need to understand they are dealing with a different generation, born and raised in the technological space and exposed to unlimited information. Old ways of communicating with teens cannot apply. As they wade through adolescence, parents are obligated to be intentional in their interaction and communication.
Written by: Amanda Birkenstock, Crawford International School Deputy Principal Schools Management.
NB: The views published in this article do not represent the position of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.