Families should practice healthy communication early on.

Even though this is easier said than done, the work put into healthy communication can help families tackle tough issues. Being congruent in verbal and non-verbal communication, being respectful towards one another, and setting boundaries between subsystems can improve communication within families.  When families can demonstrate these three, the household atmosphere can improve.

Communication can be tricky. 

Without saying a word, an individual can say a lot. Often times it’s what is not said that has the biggest impact on a relationship. If words don’t align with the non-verbal exchange, clear communication will hindered. It’s in the eyes, body posture, and hand gestures that nonverbal communication takes place. Adults usually can catch on to this, but what about the adolescent and his or her undeveloped frontal lobes? Are they getting what the parent is trying to communicate? As the parent, are you saying one thing verbally and another nonverbally? Add into the mix a complicated family situation such as financial stress, parental conflict, or even divorce—what’s the message you are trying to convey to your adolescent? More importantly, are you missing any cues from your adolescent as they go thru this too? How do you even talk to each other during this time?

When words match the nonverbal messages, it creates an atmosphere of love, trust, and safety. 

Communication can be open and the conversations can be meaningful. The likelihood of miscommunication is minimized because there is little room for confusion. And let’s face it, the last thing anyone needs is to sit back and try and figure out what’s the expectation. In the parent- child relationship it’s the same way. Make sure what you say verbally matches what you are saying non-verbally.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard that respect goes a long way. 

Well, guess what? It’s true. It’s also one of the most difficult  aspects of the parent-child relationship. During adolescence, after the personality has started to emerge, teens have to test you. They test themselves also. In doing so, respect can get lost or become “complicated”— If two parents have modeled for their children lack of respect on either part, towards one another, guess what: your adolescent is likely going to demonstrate those same qualities toward the parent—and don’t forget their developing personality. Now you’ve got trouble. Is it too late to correct this?

Probably not. It’s never too late for change.

The question is how do you correct this? For starters, create expectations because adolescents actually like structure. They also like being part of this process and having their ideas validated. During this time parents and children can develop respectful expectations. Parents are not expected to surrender and be on an equal-terms with their adolescent. In fact, this is a sure way for things to continue to go downhill. Parents should become a united front and together work with the adolescent about expectations. It is also very important that parents model respectful behavior towards one another, especially in their own communication.

Now What?

Wondering how to put this all into practice? Join me for an amazing group [TNT] for teens and parents beginning in October 2019. Each week the parents will meet on Tuesday night and the teens will meet on Saturday morning to learn the same information. This allows everyone to learn in their own subsystem. In this group, parents will also learn how to ACT—-

Acknowledge the feeling in their adolescent.

Communicate the limit.

Target acceptable behaviors.


Jeannine M. Gambles, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist- Associate


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