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Parenting Toolbox: Building and Strengthening Relationships with Teens and Preteens

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

When communicating with your young person continually ask yourself this question:  Is what I am about to say or do going to draw me closer to my teen or push me further away?

On Communication:

Validate Feelings through Perception/Reality; Intent/Outcome.  A young person's perception of what is happening in his or her life is his or her reality - it may not be accurate but at that time it does not matter - listen to what they are sharing and listen for the emotion. 

On Rules:

Rules are a form of communication - you are communicating what is important in your household.Often people equate rules with discipline - they immediately think of punishment.  Rules should not be so rigid the young person cannot function.  I like to think of rules as the banks of a river.  Without river banks all that water with so much potential and power simply spreads out over the countryside first causing possible damage and then soaking into the ground - a complete waste.  The river bank rules provides safety and guidance while allowing the young person to express him or herself.

Engage in Active Listening:

  • Get ready to listen:  Take time. Stop what you are doing. 

  • Understand:  Consider the young person's perspective.  Put yourself in their place

  • Respond:  Reflect your understanding back to the young person in your own words.  Ask questions to clarify.

And remember:

  • Don't interrupt

  • Don't offer advice unless asked

  • Hold back your reassurance.  You may be tempted to say "oh it is no big deal" - remember back to perception/reality.  In your young person's world of perception it may be a big deal at this time and saying it isn't can be confusing.

  • Be aware of the young person's body language.  Your young person may be saying "I am fine" while crying or clenching his fists.

  • Be aware of your own body language - sighing, tapping your foot, yawniong all send a message of unimportance and impatiece.

  • Pay attention to your young person's tone of voice

  • Listen for feelings (feelings, not just facts)

  • Check your understanding 

New London Counseling Center is a nonprofit outpatient mental health clinic that promotes theemotional, relational and spiritualwell-being of individuals and families through the provision of high quality, compassionate therapy and educational workshops regardless of ones ability to pay. In contributing to our mission, you can help to break financial barriers to care and make services available for those in need. Make your donation today at

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