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Tips for communicating with your young person: 10 things to do, 8 things to avoid

Posted on 6th Aug 2020

Youth Solutions 2020 Parent and Carer Info Series – Part 2: Communication

Written by: Amanda Dillon, Community Relations & Communications Coordinator & Karen Yuen, Youth & Community Development Coordinator

Good communication between young people and their parents/carers can really make a difference.

Our programs at Youth Solutions may be focused on drug and alcohol education, prevention and harm reduction, but our approach is holistic and we find open communication can play a big role in helping a young person to feel supported, connected and to be healthy. And it really all starts at home.

Young people should be encouraged and supported to ask questions and communicate openly with their parent or carer (or if that’s not possible, with a suitable support person).

We touched on Communication in Part 1 of our Parent and Carer Info Series (if you missed it, you can read it here: https://youthsolutions.com.au/submenu/news/7-protective-factors-parents-can-help-to-build-in-their-children/). The premise set out here really highlights WHY communication is so important.

Quite simply, having open communication, even around tough topics like drug and alcohol use, helps young people to feel heard, valued and connected and allows them to work through their concerns or issues WITH you, instead of without you.

So, how do I best communicate with my child or young person?

10 tips for communicating with your child or young person

1. Always communicate calmly, kindly, respectfully and in a non-judgemental way with your child young person. You want your child or young person to feel that they can talk to you. You may not agree with their point of view or behaviour for example, but you can express this in a calm, kind, respectful and non-judgemental way.

2. Be aware of differences in communication styles. Do not mistake shyness or lack of eye contact for your child not being interested.

3. Discuss serious or emotional issues in person.

4. Carefully explain your feelings, even if you think that your feelings and the reasons behind them seem obvious. This way you can ensure you have been heard and understood. And of course, encourage your child or young person to do the same. Express your thoughts and feeling using ‘I’ statements. For example ‘I am angry because I am tired’. ‘I’ statements focus more on feelings and the impact on others, rather than seeming like an attack on another person.

5. Ask questions. Ask your child questions and let your child ask you questions. Confirm that everyone understands each other. Use open-ended questions to allow your child to explore their feelings and the reasons behind them. Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”. For example: “How does that make you feel?”, “How would you like us to communicate in future?”.

6. Find opportunities to raise communication issues with each other. It’s important to talk about how to best communicate or when to best communicate. It sets a good foundation to ensure that communication is valued and is regular.

7. Learn to listen to and hear each other. Try to see your child’s point of view and really listen to what they are saying. You don’t have to have all the answers (and in fact, your child or young person will probably appreciate that anyway; it reminds them that some topics are hard or tough and they are not the only person finding that to be the case). What’s important is that you listen, relay what you have taken in and remind your young person that you are there for them. If your child is looking for answers around a particular topic, you can offer to find out more about the topic together or reach out to someone who might know more.

8. Openly and regularly talk to your child. Find what works for you and make it part of your regular routine. Some parents or carers like the idea of a regular car-ride chat on the way home from school or sport – everyone is in the same space, looking ahead, so there is no awkward eye-contact when discussing the big issues. Perhaps family meal-time is suitable? Or another weekly check-in that you choose to do? Just do the best to find opportunities to talk and keep encouraging it.

Cultural example: Talanoa In Samoan and some other pacific islander cultures, families make the time to meet weekly to chat as a family and discuss what is going on in each family member’s lives; including any issues they are facing. The family then discuss how they can support the individual.

9. Seek assistance from support services, if required. If you feel your young person may need some support or help beyond what you can offer, it’s important to let them know that and to discuss bringing in some extra support. Similarly, if you feel like you need help or support, it’s important to prioritise this and reach out to a support service (and role model this to your child or young person). Sometimes we just don’t have the answers ourselves; but a support service may be able to give us better information, link us up to help we might need or make some suggestions. Youth Solutions can provide information, support and referral too, so get in touch if you need to: 02 4628 2319 | info@youthsolutions.com.au or message us on social media.

10. Use roleplays and scenarios to help your child better understand the situation and to brainstorm safety strategies.

8 things to avoid when communicating with your child or young person

1. Assuming or expecting your child to know what you are thinking or feeling. You need to explain it and discuss this with your child. And then welcome them to do the same.

2. Assuming or expecting your child to understand what you are saying to them. They may not. Give your child the chance to ask questions and encourage them to check their understanding.

3.  Avoiding communication or keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself. If you want your child or young person to be honest and open with you and communicate with you, it’s imperative you encourage communication and let them know your own thoughts and feelings.

4. Label or attack your child. All this does is increase the likelihood of a hostile response and decrease the chances of future communication.

5. Make ‘you’ statements to blame your child (eg you make me so angry). Again, this is likely to leave your child or young person feeling attacked, hostile and unlikely to communicate.

6. Use negative comparisons, threats and sarcasm. It does not promote respectful, open and helpful communication.

7. Ask your child numerous questions in a row or interrogate them. Questions can be good, but avoid the situation turning into an interrogation; it’s unpleasant and unlikely to get you the results you want.

8. Have difficult conversations when you are highly emotional. It is usually best to calm down before talking about the problem. This is also a good one to role model to your child or young person to help them learn how to manage their emotions or anger. Taking a moment to calm down and addressing the topic later is likely to be better for everyone.

Need some help?

Need some help or support but not sure where to turn? Turn to Youth Solutions.

Whether it’s for yourself or someone in your life, we can provide referral support to link you to the services and help you need. We can also provide drug and alcohol and youth-specific information. Connect with us:

About us

Youth Solutions is a youth drug and alcohol prevention and health promotion charity working in Macarthur and Wigecarribee. Our programs, campaigns and activities aim to prevent drug and alcohol related harm to young people and the wider community, to inch us closer to our vision of a community of healthy, safe and connected young people.

Learn more: youthsolutions.com.au/what-we-do/. Make a donation to support our charity’s work: givenow.com.au/youthsolutions.

 

References:

  1. Australian Drug Foundation 2020, Talking to Young People, accessed on 23/06/2020 via: https://adf.org.au/talking-about-drugs/parenting/talking-young-people/
  2. Kids Helpline 2020, Building Respectful Relationships, accessed on 23/06/2020 via: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/building-respectful-relationships/
  3. Parentline 2018, Communication Tips for Parents, accessed on 15/07/2020 via: https://parentline.com.au/parents-carers/issues/communication-tips-parents.
  4. Raising Children Network 2017, Good Family Relationships: How to Build Them, accessed on 23/06/2020 via: https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/family-life/routines-rituals-relationships/good-family-relationships
  5. Ravulo, J., Scanlan, J. and Koster, V. 2019, Chapter 8: Delivering youth justice for pacific young people and their families, Pacific Social Work: Navigating Practice, Policy and Research, Routledge

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