When it comes to those adolescent years — generally from 9 to thirteen years of age — one of the biggest challenges is communicating.
What’s going on?
During adolescence, kids begin to push for more independence creating complications in the framework of parent-child communication. They crave to be seen as responsible, capable, and individualistic. If communication skills are lacking, this need to be recognized oftentimes manifests in unhealthy rebelliousness.
Of course, communication challenges are generally stoked from both sides!
Adolescents will begin to push for more social independence by pushing away from the parents. This can be emotionally taxing for parents, causing them to fight against the separation by imposing unnecessary rules and boundaries, all of which leads to more adolescent rebelliousness. The cycle is only perpetuated by poor communication.
How can parents avoid this unhealthy cycle?
Begin practicing healthy communication early on! Beginning around four years of age, get into a healthy communication routine these super simple and fun daily activities:
Ask your kid to describe their day
Listen actively and reflect what your kid says
Get them listening by practicing turn-taking in the conversation
Create time for storytelling
Along with infusing your day with communication skill building activities, it’s also important to understand how communication will change as adolescence nears.
As parents, get to know the four fundamental information needs that represent the needs, wants, and desires of both parents and adolescents:
The need to know. Basically, both parents and kids need to be adequately informed and assured from a young age and into adolescence. This will allow your kid to feel secure enough to venture “out into the larger world” with the support of the parents, while the parents can be assured their kid will remain open with them about their experiences.
The need to be known. It’s all about your adolescent discovering independence and individuality! They need and should be known in their own way. This means communication should embrace the recognition of their individual personality, while also providing structure that everyone can work within. As your kiddo “pushes for more social freedom” and the desire for more responsibility, you need to make sure rules and boundaries are clearly understood via communication.
The need not to know. There is a time for open sharing and there is a time for parents to hold back. Parents should learn to spare “information that feels disturbing or excessive.” While this may seem counterintuitive for open communication, it actually allows your kid to spend “more time away from home in the company of peers” without being weighed down by parental worries.
The need not to be known. As your kid gets older, especially during those adolescent and teen years, they will become increasingly “selective about what personal information [they] choose to disclose.” This is perfectly normal! Parents have practiced this through the “need not to know” foundation of communication, now it’s time for your kid to practice it!
By investing in healthy communication skill building at an early age and recognizing these foundational elements of a changing landscape between you and your budding adolescent, parents and kids can retain a strong and open relationship all the way to adulthood!