Home OPINIONS Navigating teenage years through effective communication strategies

Navigating teenage years through effective communication strategies

Nelly Omino, Principal at Makini Cambridge

Teenage years are a time of transition, growth and challenges for both parents and children. They face new academic, social and emotional pressures that can affect their well-being and behaviour as they progress in school.

While this stage might feel perplexing and very challenging for parents, they play a crucial role in helping their child navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood.

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Parents often find it hard to understand and connect with their teenagers, who may seem distant, rebellious and unnecessarily moody. However, effective communication is arguably the most effective strategy to help parents navigate the teenage years and support their teenagers’ development.

Most parents understand and value the importance of effective communication, but making effective communication happen is easier said than done for a great number of parents. The first thing that needs to be taken into consideration, is that high school represents a big change for teenagers, who must deal with more complex and demanding coursework and higher expectations and increased competition, amidst new friendships and social environments.

They must make important decisions about their future, such as what subjects to take, what career to pursue and university choice. These decisions can cause constant stress and anxiety for teenagers, who may feel overwhelmed, or uncertain about their choices.

Some teenagers may experience bullying, harassment, or discrimination from their classmates, teachers, or online. They may also face temptations to engage in risky behaviours, such as smoking, drinking, or using drugs.

High school can also affect teenagers’ emotional development, as they go through hormonal changes, mood swings and identity issues. It is therefore important for parents to understand their children’s well-being and that they often feel isolated, misunderstood, or unsupported by their parents, who may not know how to deal with their emotional needs.

However, building an environment characterised by strategic communication is essential for parents to help their teenagers cope with the challenges and foster a positive and trusting relationship with them.

Constructive communication requires one to make attempts to understand the teenagers’ current language of communication, which is very dynamic in nature. Striving to understand your teenagers better is no guarantee to no misunderstandings, but rather an assurance of better collaboration and accommodation of their ecosystems, which are often a surprise.

As parents and teenagers navigate their trends, heroes, pains and perceptions, you are bound to have an improved understanding of each other. In addition, you get an opportunity to hear each other out, lead in setting a standard as the parent and in so doing build trust and respect for each other. The conflicts will continue but they will be easier to resolve. You want to be the first person your teen contacts when they are facing difficult decisions and situations.

Developing effective communication skills is a marathon, not a race, but consistently being aware of the benefits will ultimately be rewarding for both parent and child. Always ensure to choose a good time and place to talk, when you and your teenager are both calm, relaxed, and free from distractions.

Use open-ended questions, such as “How was your day?” or “What are you interested in?” to invite your teenager to share their thoughts and feelings. Employ positive feedback, like praise, appreciation, or encouragement, to acknowledge your teenager’s achievements and efforts. It is important to also compromise and negotiation to resolve conflicts, or disagreements, without imposing, or giving in.

Ensure you express empathy and compassion to show your support and understanding for your teenager’s challenges and emotions while listening with intention, allowing your teen to have your full attention, and hold back on criticism. Allow them to have an opinion and question sensitively if you are not in agreement.

This is a continuous process that requires patience, practise and perseverance. The more you communicate consistently and effectively with your teenager, the more you will strengthen your relationship and enhance your teenager’s social, academic and personal development journey.

Jenny Coetzee, Managing Director at Crawford International School Kenya
Nelly Omino, Principal at Makini Cambridge


Written by Jenny Coetzee, Managing Director at Crawford International School Kenya and Nelly Omino, Principal at Makini Cambridge.


DISCLAIMER! Opinions expressed in this article do not represent those of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.



Nelly Omino / Jenny Coetzee
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