Co-exist with Communication: Talking to Your Teen!

It’s a scary world out there…ESPECIALLY for our teens

Over the last few years, we all have been challenged in powerful and unexpected ways.  Whether it be financial, social, or academic, that challenge has brought learning for some and conflict for others.  One of the populations in our community that struggles most with conflict are our teenagers and young adults, and guess what: ITS NOT THEIR FAULT!!!

The teenage brain is wired for innovation and adaptability, but not very well wired for emotional regulation.  This is most observed when conflict arises, either by talking to someone with different viewpoints and ideas, or when our teens want to do something that others don’t want them to do.  So, there are ways that we with our “adult brains” can help our teens work past conflict and better understand ways to avoid it in the future, while hopefully learning a thing or two in the process.

Here are 4 tips on how to guide your teens towards success in navigating conflict (from the Dr. Mike perspective):

Tip #1:  Help them look into the future: Give your teens a preview of possible difficult conversations and different points of view by asking them hypotheticals.  This allows them to exercise their skills in critical thinking, which can also help them build confidence.  And if they are not sure how to move forward in such conversations, it give you the chance to TEACH! Remember, teen brains can react in ways that are unpredictable, so never judge – it’s the way their brain is supposed to be wired so it can learn!

Tip #2:  Co-existence is a great state of existence:  One of my favorite phrases is “perception is reality,” which makes a lot of sense for our teens.  Their lens is focused on what they think, and usually supports the fact that they are ALWAYS right (sound familiar to anyone?).   Showing our teens that you can disagree with others in conversation and behaviors and still be respectful and even be friends is HUGE!.  Even the most opposite of thoughts and actions can co-exist and each have their place in the conversation and in our community. Teens learn best by example, so this is a chance for parents to practice this valuable skill too!

Tip #3:  Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!. The more you talk, the more they’ll TRUST!  Stress the importance of talking to trusted adults about what is bothering them.  If something really got under their skin, ask them what happened, what they thought about it, and what they think should happen next.  Share with them how it makes YOU feel and times similar things happened to you. 

Provide “space and grace:” This phrase helps in so many conversations.  Giving our teens the “space” to figure stuff out on their own, make a decision that may be a mistake, and the “grace” to be taught how their decisions affects them and others is one of the most important pieces of advice I have.  We often want to save our teens from EVERY mistake; still, making mistakes leads to learning, and in areas of conflict, such learning can be crucial to have had.

Putting the above tips to use overtime can help conquer even the most scary and nerve-wracking conversations out there!  Remember, you are talking to someone you love more than anything in this world – let them know it as much and as often as you can and you will start to see how easily things will start to fall into place in no time!

Mike Guyton-Nunley, MD, is the president of Pridefest Collaborative in addition to being a doctor for ALL teenagers and young adults.  While blog posts are not his expertise, he loves taking any opportunity to make those around him think, smile, laugh, and conquer the world around them!

The Countdown to Pridefest 2023 IS ON!

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