Talking with your teen - Tip #1

Start communicating early

Talking with your teen - Tip 1

1. Start communicating early

The moment the doctor, nurse or midwife hands you that precious baby is your first opportunity as a parent to start the lines of communication for the teen years. It may be difficult to imagine planning so far in advance, but as an experienced parent can tell you, no one magical event happens to warn you.


While your child is a toddler, he commands attention, and as good, doting parents we watch, mesmerized by our child’s growing ability to communicate. We laugh as he struggles to find and pronounce words. We wait with bated breath as he stammers through a retelling of his favorite show or movie. Hold on to these feelings and your ability to engage this child in communication and keep in mind that someday this child may answer “How was your day?” with a curt “Fine,” as he storms off to his bedroom and slams the door.


If you are already in the preteen or full-blown adolescent years and feel the strain, do not fear or surrender. You can still make a few adjustments that may be enough to enable both you and your child to feel more comfortable and establish a better flow of communication.


Adolescence is a time of change and, much like the toddler years, there are biological as well as psychological growth spurts occurring. “Everything changes – biology, cognitive skills, social skills, the way teens look at things – all aspects of their lives change,” says Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.


Denyse Variano, R.N. and senior extension resource educator/community & parenting educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Middletown, agrees. “This time of brain development leads to [a teen’s] highest level of cognitive thinking, reason, cause and effect. The teen is a great debater and has more stamina than an adult as well as a love for having the last word. Even if it is three hours later and through a locked bathroom door, they will try to have that last word to practice their new thinking skills.”


Sharon MacGregor is the mother of two teen boys in Sullivan County.

Tip 2: Choose your battles!