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Parent Conversation: Teens and Communication

3/7/2017
Facilitated by Mary Gauthier, the Executive Director of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning, Parent Conversations provide an opportunity to talk about the world outside the school, as well as current research that can help all parents better understand their children. These conversations also encourage parents to share thoughts and ideas with each other.

Both sessions started with a conversation around teens’ need to move away from their parents to find themselves. Many teens will pull their parents closer only to push them away again, and adjusting to this constant fluctuation can be difficult.

One parent in the first session contributed a very apt metaphor from Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour; in this example, the parent is a swimming pool, the child is the swimmer and the water is the broader world. The child will hang on to the side of the pool when they’ve had a rough time in the water, but ultimately they will strike out on their own again. (This wonderful metaphor was woven into the second session of the day and demonstrates the importance of these sessions being conversations, rather than seminars - our parents have so much to contribute!)

Then, both groups moved on to discuss three main themes around teens and communication:
  • Conversations vs Advice: In the teenage years, the advice-giving model that was effective at younger ages becomes less so. Parents discussed how to encourage their teens to have positive, productive conversations with them around thorny issues.
  • Communication and Strong Emotions: When teens are experiencing intense emotions, such as anger and sadness, parents intervening can escalate these emotions. Waiting for the emotions to calm down before trying to speak to your child is often a good strategy.
  • Windows of Opportunity: Some situations provide perfect opportunities for having important conversations. One example of this is a car ride: parent and child are side by side and can avoid eye contact, making it easier to discuss difficult or delicate issues.
Parents also discussed teens’ world online. Social media and the Internet are a huge part of teens' lives, but setting boundaries surrounding this online world can be very tricky. There are many things that parents can do to make a positive impact on their child when it comes to their online interactions, including:
  • Modelling positive behaviours: If a parent expects their teen not to text while driving, modelling this behaviour sends a powerful message.
  • Setting family standards: An example of a family standard might be “No screens in the bedroom after X p.m.” A standard such as this protects both physical health (by encouraging sleep) and mental health (by limiting anxiety).
Thank you so much to everyone who joined us! Our next sessions on “Teens and Significance” will be held in late April/early May - look out for details in Week @ A Glance.

Resources

Interested in the resources shared at these sessions? Check them out below.

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