3 Ways to Communicate With Your Troubled Teen

Communication can solve a majority of the conflicts that you might have with your troubled teen. You might struggle to relate to your child or not know where to begin. Sometimes, you just wish that they would listen to you. You feel like everything just goes in one ear and out the other.

Working on your communication skills can change the way that you manage conflicts within your home. Your entire family will benefit when you communicate effectively. When families communicate respectfully, kids learn to:

  • Discuss their needs and wants without resorting to maladaptive behaviors
  • Express their emotions to others without lashing out or yelling
  • Agree to consequences for behaviors in advance

You can set a good example for your teen to communicate in a healthy way to others as they grow into young adults. These skills will help them in their future relationships, advocate for themselves, and help them throughout their careers. 

Being in the Right State of Mind

One of the most critical aspects of effective communication is being in the right state of mind. If your kid just crashed your car while out driving drunk, your emotions might cause you to react in the moment. 

When your teen talks back, gets into trouble, cuts themselves, or hides in their rooms all day, you will feel various emotions. These can range from anger and worry to disappointment and sadness. Always remember that emotions are fluid and change. 

Communicating from an emotional state does not always yield the best results. Take the time first to deal with your own emotions. You are allowed to feel these emotions. Process them with your partner or other supportive people. Tell your kid, “I need a minute to calm myself down, and then we will talk about this.” Then, once you are in a clear state of mind, talk to your kid about what happened. 

The following are three ways that you can talk to your troubled teen. Once you are in the right frame of mind, you can try these strategies to communicate effectively.

#1. Using “I” Statements

“I” statements are crucial when managing conflict. During a conflict, everyone can be on edge, trying to avoid blame or dealing with their own guilt. When people get defensive, they use blaming or shaming to deflect responsibility.  

Sometimes, you might even try to guess why your kid acts out. You might say something like, “You always go to your room to avoid spending time with your family.” Never assume your child’s motivation. Instead, speak from your perspective and ask questions.

For example, “When I hear from your teachers about how you skipped class, I’m concerned about what you are doing instead of going to school. Where are you going when you skip class?”

Remember that you are not dismissing the other person’s behavior when using “I” statements. Instead, you let them know how you see the behaviors and what your concerns are all about.

#2. Feelings Statements

Along with “I” statements, feelings statements let your kid know your perspective on their behaviors. While you do not want to react from an emotional space, you are allowed to have feelings. You are also allowed to talk about your emotions when you are in a rational state of mind.

For example, you might say, “I get worried when you are out late without telling me where you go.” Or, “I feel angry when I need to repeat myself about cleaning up your room.”

Always look for solutions as well. You are not blaming your child for your feelings. Instead, you are stating how these actions make you feel and ask them for ways to fix the issue. For example, “I feel upset when I come home from work, and you haven’t started your homework yet. Should I leave a note as a reminder, or can we check in with one another via text when you get home?”

Mirror-Validate-Empathize (MVE)

Keep these words in mind when you are speaking with your child about their issues or behaviors:

  • Mirror what they are saying:
    • Mirroring is a simple restatement of what you hear your child express.
    • Your child might say, “I hate my friends.”
    • You can say, “What I’m hearing is that you hate your friends.”
  • Validate their experience:
    • You can validate by allowing them to have these feelings and work through them.
    • For example, “Sometimes, our friends can make us feel angry.” or,
    • “Sometimes, we have arguments with the people closest to us.”
  • Empathize by connecting the emotions they must be experiencing:
    • Empathizing means that you can understand their perspective.
    • “Getting into an argument with your best friend must make you feel upset.” or,
    • “I imagine you must feel frustrated with your friends.”

You can bring these skills together as you communicate with your teen. You can guide them through a conflict and help them understand their own emotional experiences with effective communication skills. 

Communicating with a troubled teen can be challenging for parents. You might get angry by their actions or feel like they are “over-the-top” or “dramatic.” Remember that your teen is experiencing some challenging emotions for the first time. They might be going through their first breakup, first failed test, first date rejection, or the first time they’ve gotten into trouble. You might have conflicts with them. Get into a calm state of mind yourself first before reacting from an emotional space. When you are calm, you can guide your child and set a positive example for them. You can engage active listening skills and help them when they need you most. If your teen is dealing with challenging behavioral issues, and you struggle to help them, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help parents and teens who struggle. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest.

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