Do you have difficulty communicating with your teenager?

Teenagers are between the ages of 12-18 and they are in transition to becoming adults. Their bodies, attitudes, values, and moods might be changing, and they may be treating you differently. While this is an exploratory time for teenagers, it can be frightening for a parent to experience this transition.  These are some guidelines to help you maintain healthy and respectful parent-teenager relationships.


Conversations are Key

Engaging in effective conversations require both the parent and the teenager to be talking with each other, not at each other. Conversations are a two way street. Even adults don’t enjoy being lectured, so if you’re trying to have a conversation, you should minimize lecturing.

Active listening

A big part of having good conversations is listening. This is why active listening is a set of skills that requires practice to become good at. Here is a short document that St. Stephen’s Community House provides for active listening guidelines and examples. For information on conflict resolution training visit

Carry on the Conversation: Ask open ended questions

By asking open ended questions, you’re more likely to gain more insight on what your teenager thinks. This can help you understand your teenager’s thoughts and opinions. Plus, you prevent yes or no answers and create possibilities for deeper conversation. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t try to control the conversation.


Try initiating conversations when you are not in a rush. This could happen in lineups, while browsing a mall, while walking the dog, and so on. Current news can also be a great way to learn about where your teenager stands on moral issues.

The above being said, the number of conversations you have with your teenager may be limited because teenagers need their space.


What does space include?

  • Privacy: Don’t expose the secrets that your teenager shares with you. You don’t want to close the door for future sharing of intimate thoughts. Building trust is key.
  • Time for friends: Having a few quality conversations by following the above tips will prevail over having multiple conversations.
  • Autonomy: Let your teenager do their own thing. They may want to explore new identities to figure out what feels right to them.
  • Giving space in conversations: This means you shouldn’t always have the last word in a conversation. It is also good to give your teenager space if the conversation abruptly ends due to a need for further reflection upon what was said.

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How to Show Support

Let your teenager know that you are there to support them while they are trying to find themselves. You can do this by:

Showing Respect

It is important that you respect your teenager’s opinions even if they do not correspond with your own. Teenagers are developing their own ideas at this point of their life and it’s important for you to be supportive. Accept your teenager’s feelings and validate them. Teenage years are tough and it helps to know that a parent or caretaker accepts them.

Engaging in Collaborative Decision Making

When you make decisions together with your teenager, you are actively showing them that their opinions matter. You also get to guide them on how to make better decisions in some cases and allow them to have insight on how you logically problem solve and/or come up with decisions. While collaboration includes some disagreement, you should not have the deciding say in every single collaborative decision.

Support your teenager even if they make what you believe to be the wrong decision. While you can still advise them, sometimes learning through experience is better than not learning at all.

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If you make a mistake…

Apologize to your teenager if you’re wrong. Be a good role model to your teenager because you can influence them in profound ways.

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