Hudson Valley Parent

HVP August 2016

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12 Hudson Valley Parent n August 2016 processed as criticism? Although family structures and dynamics are highly unique, there are areas of commonal- ity. The following can be helpful in successfully establishing effective lines of communication with the adolescents in your life. Open communication Be aware that your concept of communica- tion is different from this generation's. Don't get locked in a power struggle with your teenager feeling that your authority is slip- ping away. The bottom line is this: Treat them more like adults and involve them in family decisions as much as you can to help keep the lines of communication open. Critically speaking The surest communication-killer is criticism. When you criticize her friends, you are actually de facto criticizing her. No one enjoys being confronted with their own deficien- By PAUL SCHWARTZ I f men are from Mars and women are from Venus, as the author John Gray would have us believe, then adolescents must be from another galaxy altogether - or so it often seems to parents who live with them. Many parents I talk with are often confused as to why communica- tion (and I use that term rather loosely) with their adolescent has become so difficult, strained, or filled with sarcasm and often antag- onism. To all those parents out there, let me offer a word of reassurance to help keep you from devaluing the parenting skills that served you well all these years: It is not your parent- ing ability that created this estrange- ment and breakdown in dialogue. In most instances the adolescent push toward independence has little to do with his feelings about his parents. Their attempt to move away from the family and become an autonomous person is as normal and as developmentally appropriate as when she stood and then toddled her first steps. However, this time the stakes are higher and the art of parenting is much more demanding. What then can parents do when their help and attempt at commu- nication is rejected and seen as interference, advice is misconstrued as bossing, and opinions offered are cies or mistakes - least of all ado- lescents. Listen with an open mind, and respect her opinions no matter how ludicrous they may seem. Pick your poison Raising teens is not a battle. When you are displeased with your child's behavior, stop and ask your- self: Is this "battle" necessary? There are literally hundreds of things our adolescents can do or say that can press our buttons. Just stopping for a few seconds and rethinking your direction can foster not only effec- tive and friendly communication when you do engage, but it can also bring more peace and harmony to your home. Lend an ear Adolescents need to feel that their opinions and input are important, valued, and listened to. Remember, it's not about you and your own ado- lescent struggles, it's about theirs. Do kids today have it easier than we did? In most cases the answer is yes, but that still doesn't negate the struggles they are experienc- ing. One of the goals for parents during adolescence is to help them develop autonomy and control over their behavior. When adolescents and their parents clearly commu- nicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas and reach mutually agreed upon decisions, there are no losers. Paul Schwartz, Ph.D., is a profes- sor of psychology and chairperson of the Division of Social Sciences at Mount Saint Mary College. Talking the talk: Communicating with your adolescent PAUL SCHWARTZ Child Behavior No one enjoys being confronted with their own def iciencies or mistakes - least of all adolescents.

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