How often do you wonder what is going through your teen’s mind? How many times have you thought If I could just know what she’s thinking, I could fix this situation? Are you tired of saying the same thing over and again, only to be dismissed? Chances are, your teen may be thinking and feeling the same way about you.
The teen years can be hard for many reasons, for both you and your child. Conflicting schedules, priorities, and growing independence can be managed with effective communication. Your child will likely learn his or her communication style from what you model. Here are four tips to keep lines of communication open:
- G – Be Gentle. Try to keep judgment out of your responses. Be kind and courteous, without making any threats or attempts to change what the other person is expressing. Stay away from using the word “should.”
- I – Act Interested in what the other person is saying or attempting to express by hearing them out fully without interrupting or talking over them. Look for reasons why your child is making a request or statement. What might be the motivation? For example, if your child is distressed about not being able to attend an event that EVERY other kid gets to go to, her behavior is likely motivated by feeling left out or disconnected from her peers, a crucial need at this stage in her life.
- V – Validate the other person’s feelings by acknowledging his opinions about the situation. Don’t be quick to respond with your own opinion before reflecting back to your child your own interpretation of what he’s stated. Check to be sure you understood him right before crafting your response. Acknowledge how difficult it might have been for him to come to you about this topic.
- E – use an Easy manner. Threats, judgment statements, rigid demeanors are a recipe to shut down the other person. Approach with a smile and be light-hearted. Use humor when appropriate. An easy manner conveys to your child that it is safe to share details of her life with you, without fear of being ridiculed, rejected, or dismissed. Rules and boundaries are important, as are consequences. But when it comes to communication, be it for support or problem-solving, genuine connection thrives on safety and attunement.
Together, these tips create the acronym GIVE, formulated by Marsha Linehan, founder of dialectic behavior therapy (DBT). The therapy rests on four modules: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance skills. To learn more about how to connect and communicate with significant others in your life, contact me now for a free phone consultation.