This is how you can effectively connect with teenagers


A group of teenagers dancing in a night club party. [Getty Images]

The world has changed significantly in the 21st century and so have teenagers. Today's adolescents are growing up in an era of rapid technological advancement, complex societal issues and unprecedented access to information. To connect with and support them, parents and educators should understand their unique challenges and adapt communication methods that produce the best outcome.

The first step in understanding and connecting with teenagers is acknowledging their world. Their exposure to technology and information presents diverse challenges, such as cyberbullying, increased academic pressure, mental health concerns and exposure to a variety of information. It is important to recognise that these challenges can impact their emotions, behaviours and communication.

Parents need to embrace technology as an important part of their teen’s lives. Instead of viewing it as a barrier to communication, use it as a bridge. Be open to discussing the technology they use, learn from them and find ways to connect with their interests and online activities. While indulging at their level, light conversations can be held to discover more about them and the issues affecting them. In the process set boundaries for screen time to help balance their online and offline lives.

Active listening is an essential aspect of effective communication with teens. Give them your undivided attention, show genuine interest in what they say. Avoid interrupting and don't rush to offer solutions, or advice. Instead, create a safe space for them to express their thoughts, feelings and concerns without judgment. Acknowledge their emotions and validate their experiences. This can help build trust. 

Nonverbal cues in teens plays a key role in how they communicate. Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice when talking to a teen. Maintain good eye contact, use a calm and reassuring tone and avoid expressions of frustration, or impatience. These cues can influence the quality of the conversation.

Communicating discipline channels effectively to teenagers is a crucial aspect of maintaining a harmonious and respectful relationship. Discuss the rules and consequences openly, allowing them to have a say in establishing certain boundaries. Emphasise the fact that discipline is not about punishment, but rather a way to help them learn and grow. This collaborative approach empowers teenagers to understand the reasons behind the rules and consequences, making them more likely to abide by them.

Teenagers strive for independence and respecting this desire is essential. While guidance and boundaries are still necessary, acknowledging their need to make independent choices, take responsibility and learn from their personal experiences is important. Collaborate with them to make decisions together instead of dictating, this smoothens the process.

Selecting the appropriate time and place for discussions is vital. Public confrontation is never well-received, image is everything to a teen. Avoid confrontational settings and choose moments when you both have time to talk without interruptions. Practice patience while talking to them, you will need it. Give them time to process the issues being discussed to give logical responses.

Ms Birkenstock is Crawford International School's deputy principal, Schools Management