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HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR TEEN

Communicating with a teenager is very different from communicating with younger children. As a parent, it is crucial to remember this -- you look at your teen and you see your child, but they believe that they are now adults and this can cause frustration and conflict.Follow these 15 steps to communicate more effectively with your teenager . . .

1 TRY TO REMEMBER WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE AS A TEEN Confusing doesn't do it justice. Teenagers live in a whirlwind of conflict and change. Physically and emotionally they are going through huge changes and they are trying to understand where they fit into the world. It's no walk in the park, but if you try and remember what life was like back then -- and how confusing it was -- you will be able to relate to your teen a lot more.

2 BE CALM Always be calm. We communicate more effectively when we are calm. If your teen has broken the rules, take time to cool down before you talk to them.

If you keep your cool, your teen is more likely to keep their cool too. As a result, you will both be able to get your points across clearly without initiating World War III.

3 BE CLEAR If there's an issue you need to address with your teen, explain in simple terms what it is that you are concerned about. Avoid complicating the situation by becoming emotional, your teen needs to know that you are in control; this will give them a greater sense of security.

4 LISTEN Take time out to listen to your teen. Go to a quiet place to talk, give them your undivided attention and listen to what they are telling you. Maintain eye contact and demonstrate that you are listening through your body language, for example nodding your head. Repeat back what they have told you, for example "So what you are saying is . . ." and ask them whether you have got it right. Listening to your teen is a powerful way of letting them know that they are important to you. Listen more than you speak. By remaining silent you are giving them the opportunity to tell you more.

5 ACCEPT Acknowledge their feelings and accept them for who they are. Your teen is an individual, and they need to know that you accept them for who they are, even when they do things that you don't approve of. It is important for your teen to feel special and understood; this has huge implications for their sense of self-worth.

6 SUPPORT When your teen says they need you or need to talk, make yourself available. Be clear that you will always be on their side and you will help them with any problems they have or decisions they need to make. Let them know that you don't expect them to be perfect and that it is okay to make mistakes. It is the parent's role to help their teen to learn from their mistakes. They are looking for attention, acceptance and encouragement from you.

7 USE THE LANGUAGE OF ALLIANCE Tell your teen that you will work with them to solve their problems. Talk together about possible solutions. By communicating that you believe that you can find a solution together, you will help your teen to feel better about their ability to make positive choices in their life.

8 DON'T BE AFRAID TO TACKLE THE TOUGH QUESTIONS Teens are going to have questions about sex, drugs and alcohol. Parents who show support and understanding are more likely to have teens who do not act impulsively when faced with a decision about these topics. These kids are more informed about what they are feeling and thinking and about the consequences of acting on their thoughts and feelings. When teens understand that their parents are not afraid to talk with them and to help them find answers, they are better protected from the pressures of others to engage in risky behaviour.

9drivetime The more you talk with your teen, the more likely they are to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Try to plan times where the family can sit down together, for example at dinner or going on a trip in the car. It doesn't matter what you talk about, just that you get into the habit of talking regularly. It's well documented that a good way of talking to children, adolescents in particular, is while driving along in the car. That way you have privacy, as well as a captive audience, but you don't have to maintain awkward eye contact.

10 TURN NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES Negative communication is a common cause of conflict. Examples include nagging, criticising or shouting to force compliance. To avoid this, negotiate with your teen about how you will communicate with each other. Work out how and when you communicate with each other best.

11 CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES Arguing over an untidy bedroom is not as important as explaining the importance of not getting into a car with a friend who has been drinking alcohol. But if you go off the deep end with every argument, a teen will quickly equate your opinion with moaning.

12 DON'T BE AFRAID TO ADMIT WHEN YOU'RE IN THE WRONG It can make a massive difference to a teen's self-esteem if you actually admit that you are sometimes in the wrong. Don't be afraid to apologise.

13 GIVE THEM PRIVACY Show your teen that you respect their privacy by knocking on their bedroom door before you enter the room. Teenagers need their own space.

14 SHOW AN INTEREST IN THEIR INTERESTS Make it your business to take an active interest in what they are involved in. Go to their sporting events, listen to their music, watch their TV shows or movies with them.

15 BE LOVING Adolescence is a time when young teens often struggle with their changing identity and they need to feel loved. Tell them often and demonstrate this in whatever way is comfortable for you both. Feeling loved is vital for every person's sense of positive self-esteem.

On the Shoulders of Giants: a day-long course for fathers runs for one day only on Saturday, November 5 from 10am to 4pm. Places cost €100, including lunch and are limited with early booking advised. Call the Owen Connolly Counselling Centre, Stillorgan on 01 210 0600 or visit www.counsellor.ie for further information