Asked to describe adolescents, suffering parents might come up with phrases and words such as ‘hormonal changes’, ‘rebellious’, ‘untamed’, etc.
Now, we should bear in mind that children, regardless of age, long for genuine relationships and emotional exchanges with their elders.
The storm age of puberty is a challenge for both parents and the growing teens.
On one hand, some parents might still regard and treat their adolescent sons and daughters as children, adhering to the same parenting style as their own elders did during their time. Meanwhile, the children might feel that they are no longer kids and that they need more room for privacy or independence.
Based on my years of experiences of getting along with teenagers, I would like to summarize in an acronym the tips for communication: REAL.
Respect: Parents should respect their children’s boundary lines of personal space and their right to decide. In reality, it is easier said than done, especially when it comes to some disagreements.
Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. No one would like to have their privacy intruded. Hence, when teenagers demand more personal space and privacy, parents should respect the wishes. Going into their bedrooms without permission and checking their personal computers or social media accounts are undesirable, for instance.
When children get disobedient, like staying up late, the parents, instead of firing away orders, must try to convince the kids with reason and seemingly give them a choice. Try saying: “I think you know lack of sleep would affect your performance during daytime, and I believe you would make a wise call as to what time you should sleep.”
Engage: When teenagers are seemingly disconnected from the physical world and are immersed in the digital universe, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want care and exchanges from other people. Parents can try starting some small talk with their children on topics they are interested in such as South Korean pop stars, TV dramas, electronic games or sports. Stay interested in what the children are sharing, and they would be willing to do the same.
Affection: Hugs and kisses are not the only way to show your affection to your children. Dr. Gary Chapman proposes the five “love languages”, namely gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch. Try different ways and see which ones work with your children best.
Listen: Last but not least, listening is the best policy, though it is getting rare that teenagers are willing to voice their inner thoughts. A good listener will not judge, but instead show empathy, patience and understanding. Don’t rush to conclusions or suggestions. Listen first.
Parents might feel their hands are tied when their children are going through puberty. Problems and difficulties would pass when good communications are maintained. Follow the principle of REAL and you might find that it helps improve relationships.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 16
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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