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  • Alethia Winley

Top 3 Tips for Teens: Communicating With Your Guardian So That They Will Truly Hear and Listen

I’ve heard my parents say countless times that I have “selective listening” when they tell me to do something or that their instructions go “in one ear and out the next”. I’ll admit, sometimes, it is a small form of defiance, but honestly, most of the time I truly just don’t hear them or properly understand.

I think what many teens forget (and I’m guilty of this too) is that sometimes it’s our parents who don’t quite understand or truly hear what we are saying. It’s easy to get frustrated and shut down, but I think it’s important to show the empathy and understanding that we want from our parents to them. Communicating with our parents can be extremely tricky. They come from different generations, have different cultural backgrounds and understandings, and sometimes they make mistakes (shocker, I know). Here are my top 3 tips for communicating with your parents or guardians so that they will truly listen.

1. Plan and Practice

Jumping into a conversation, especially one that is important to you, without knowing what your goals are and planning what you want to say is a sure way to get lost in communication with your guardians. Emotions will run high and take over, and a simple conversation will quickly turn into a heated argument. Before you have a conversation about something important to you with your guardian, write down your goals and intentions. What do you want to discuss with your guardian? What emotions do you want to express? What actions are you looking to take to meet your goal? Make sure your intentions are focused internally rather than trying to project external goals onto your guardian. You can only control yourself. So rather than making a goal that is “get my mom to buy me a phone”, make your goal “communicate clearly the benefits of me having a phone”. This makes the subject of the goal yourself rather than trying to control the actions of your guardian.

If you have a friend, sibling, counselor, or another person you trust, practice communicating your goals and intentions with them. They can help you see flaws or holes in your communication and help you fix them. They may also help you to prepare for the possibilities of miscommunication, high emotions, or misunderstandings. Knowing what you are going to say while also being prepared for the nuances of conversation will help you to communicate more effectively with your guardian.

2. Be Understanding

Another thing to prepare for is the possibility that your guardian will not understand. It is easy to get frustrated when people don’t understand you the first time, but it is important to understand that the message conveyed is often not the message received. If you feel you are not being understood, ask your guardian to tell you what they heard and understood from what you said. If this does not line up with what you intended to convey, help your guardian out and clarify your message. Your guardian will see your empathy and understanding and will likely reflect it. The other part of this is understanding if your parents have different thoughts about the topic you are discussing. Try your best to hear their side and try to understand their perspective. And understand that you might not get what you want. Don’t be afraid to make compromises and adjust your goal.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Pause and Come Back Another Time

No matter how much we prepare, sometimes our emotions will get the best of us. Our goals will disappear, and we may start seeing red when our guardians are not understanding. If you feel this beginning to happen or recognize that your conversation has turned into an unhealthy conflict, don’t be afraid to tell your guardian that you think it would be best to put this conversation on hold and return to it at another time when neither of you are as upset. Take this time to reflect on the conversation and recognize flaws. What made your guardian upset? How can you communicate ____ more effectively? Did you let your emotions get out of control? How might you better control your emotions next time? When you return to the conversation, take the time to set your intentions with your guardian. Make a deal with each other to try your best to have a conversation rather than an argument. Express that you don’t want to fight, you simply want to be heard and understood. Chances are, your guardian wants the same thing.

This is not a cure-all formula for communicating with your parents. But if you try to implement more preparation, empathy, and intentionality in your conversations, you will at least know that you are making a good effort to communicate effectively and healthily with your guardians. Remember: the only person you can control is yourself.

See Also: Communication is Key: How to Communicate Effectively With Friends, Families, Partners, and Strangers


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