Does your teenager come home from school, lock himself in his bedroom or into himself and blast the music on? Then maybe this article is not for you.
An old saying goes: “The education of a child begins twenty years before he is born.” Parents whose oldest child begins kindergarten do not imagine what it will be like to have a teenager at home. For this reason, this article is actually written to be read by those who have newborn babies.
Communicating with teenagers can be very complicated, but it is not all the fault of the poor boys. If we as parents have communication deficiencies, there may be latent problems, or hidden situations for many years before the problems appear, as the history of the onion crickets, or the forgotten wedges teaches us. It may be that we have bad habits in the education of our children, things that we neglect or that we thought we could ignore, that were not going to affect. However, suddenly and in the midst of all the changes that our children go through in adolescence, we realize that the great things always come from the smallest things, and that little oversights generate great disasters.
There are many models of what the communication process is. Perhaps one of the most accepted today is the following:
In this case, the transmitter is us as parents. Through a channel we send a message (which is always accompanied by a reference and a code), and it goes to a receiver, who is our son. To make matters worse, in the whole process there is always a source of interference, which can limit our effectiveness in saying what we want to say, or so that our child understands what we want him to understand. The model is actually much more complex, but we are going to keep it at that level.
Do you have a communication problem? I believe we all, to a greater or lesser degree, have it. And if I told you that here I am going to give you all the solutions, I would lie to you. It is impossible to make absolute generalizations that work, because different factors may be failing. Let’s look at the main problems at a technical, semantic or effectiveness level.
The parents (the transmitter)
They have to do with being precise in what we mean, with being exact in the transmission: we speak at a good volume (not too high or too low), calling things and parts of the body by name and in the tone of proper voice. For example, if we always talk loudly, there comes a time when they become normal. If our prayers are accompanied by the easy tear, there comes a time when we no longer move, and we even achieve an effect opposite to what we wanted: our children ignore us.
Semantic problems: understanding
In the model, the message is accompanied by a code (a language) and a referent (a shared knowledge). Our children will often speak a different language than ours, even though we both think we are speaking Spanish. It is necessary to make adjustments: there will be words in them that irritate us, and there will be expressions of ours that will seem ridiculous. There will be questions of norms, points of view, customs, which our children and their peers will find VERY old-fashioned, and scandalous to us. To communicate, we both have to be aware of it and look for the intermediate point where communication can take place.
Effective communication involves change
Communication is not only expressing ourselves correctly, but also being effective in modifying the behavior of the recipient (that is, of our children). When they are small children they obey us in everything, because they believe us in everything. If we are consistent in our behavior, when they grow up they will continue to believe us. Perhaps not the same, but if they know in their hearts how much we love them, if we show them by giving them quality time, in quantity, our communication will always be effective.
. There are difficult messages. For them, we must prepare in a special way. Like when we are going to talk about sexuality with our children, or when we are going to make rules about going out with their friends at night. We should be two steps ahead of them in every way, and trust me, you don’t solve the problem by avoiding it. I should have prepared to discuss sexuality with my children before they entered adolescence, without turning red when doing so. When the message is “thorny”, it is good to prepare the channel, the environment: it helps a lot when one is working with them. When you are on a walk, or if your hands are busy with something, ideas flow better and are better received.
Sources of interference are eliminated with redundancy: improve accuracy, rectify channel errors, eliminate interference both in the message and in the audience. To a large extent, redundancy in family communication comes with repetition, courtesy, and good manners. There are exceptions, but they are just that: exceptions.
. True, a teenager is going through so many changes inside, it would be unfair to ask him to be the perfect recipient that he was during his childhood years. We, who are at a more stable point in our lives, have a duty to be flexible in that sense. What’s more, your teenager probably doesn’t want to communicate with you. No way, it’s something we can’t change. What is very important is that you let him know continuously, by different means, that you do want to communicate with him, and that when he wants to communicate with you, you will be there, ready and eager to listen to him.
The reverse cycle
. Of course, once the information has flowed from us to them, then the reverse part comes, where your child is the sender and you the receiver. This entails two great challenges: First, now you have to make them speak. And secondly, you have to be willing to listen to them. With these principles, of course you can do it.