Communication: Connecting teens and parents

Explore suggestions for creating and maintaining open communication between teens and parents.

Since 1992, Liberty Mutual Insurance has collaborated with the National Students Against Drunk Driving/Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) on educational projects and studies aimed at teen drivers. The results of these studies indicate a lack of sufficient communication between parents and teens. Liberty Mutual Insurance is quick to point out that most teens do make healthy decisions on a day-to-day basis. They also explain that teens who talk with someone about important issues are more likely to make healthy decisions. This significant adult could be a parent or a trusted mentor such as a 4-H leader.

The following guidelines may be used to promote open communication between teens and parents. These suggestions were adapted from the SADD study.

  • Praise your children for doing the little things that can be so easily taken for granted.
  • Make an extra effort to understand your teen’s world. Demands for independence, pressures of school, changes in emotions and physical make-up can lead to an emotional roller coaster in teens’ lives.
  • Set a good example — your kids will do as you do. Actions do speaks louder than words.
  • Talk with your kids early and often about tough topics. Don’t back down on important issues.
  • Teach your kids to listen by listening to what they have to say. Don’t underestimate the importance of their feelings.
  • Read between the lines. Your children may find it hard to say what is on their mind.
  • Lighten up — take time out if you need to. Counting to ten (or twenty) before responding may make the difference between a shouting match and a helpful discussion.
  • Be prepared to let some things go and take advantage of opportunities to make a positive point.
  • Respect your child — try to work together as partners.
  • Remind your child that you love them and care about their safety.
  • Don’t ever give up. Know that it is getting better with every passing day, as long as you continue to make the effort.

In short, parents need to stay involved. Young people who avoid alcohol and drugs are more likely than those who don’t to report that they have a close relationship with their parents or another trusted adult. They are also more likely to say that their parents exercise a lot of "control" over various aspects of their lives, including where they go, what they do and who they are with.

More information about parent/teen communications can be found online at the Student Leadership Services Michigan website.

The Michigan 4-H program is an opportunity to encourage healthy individual and club activities. For more information about Michigan 4-H youth programs, contact your local Michigan State University Extension Office.

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