Alcohol and relationshipsEvery parent has been a teenager – but it’s amazing how quickly we all forget those turbulent times when the shoe’s on the other foot.

So before you resort to yet another yelling match with the grumpy pile of hormones who’s locked themselves in their room for the umpteenth time this weekend, here’s a quick reminder of how to talk to your troublesome teen.

Forget about “feelings”: No matter how much you think that sitting your child down and asking “how do you feel?” is the right way to go – chances are that they’re going to brand you as “lame” and become defensive. After all, confusion over how they feel is often the root cause of their moodiness. Instead, let them choose the topics of conversation – they’ll soon let you know how they “feel” when they’re on familiar ground.

Understand hormones: It might be a while since you learnt all about puberty and hormones in Biology class, but take the time to revise what’s going on with your teenager. Those mood swings are based in chemistry not a general dislike of humanity, and once you understand what they’re going through, you’re more likely to find that extra patience which avoids another slanging match. And remember, mood swings work both ways, so make the most of the good moods.

Talk their language: You don’t have to buy an urban slang dictionary – just get to know what they’re interested in and let them be the authority in their interests. Listening to your teen talking will also give you insights into how they feel about their world.

Set examples: The old “do as I say, not as I do” adage doesn’t cut it in today’s world – and you’re certainly going to find talking to your teen tough going if you’re not prepared to show some leadership. If they see you sulking or shouting, they’re unlikely to stop doing the same.

Don’t panic: There is a huge difference between teenage moodiness and mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, so don’t fly off the handle if your child exhibits some symptoms. The usual gauge is whether four or more of these signs persist more than a fortnight: impaired sleep; loss of interest in a once-enjoyed activity; excessive guilt; loss of energy and concentration; a change in appetite; sluggishness hyperactivity; or a preoccupation with suicide. A doctor or trained therapist is best suited to make a diagnosis.

Be patient: Once you understand your teen, you might be able to reappraise your expectations in terms of conversations. But you don’t have to lower your standards – just be sure to remember that these teenage years don’t last for ever.

It’s vital that if your teenager self-harms, talks regularly about suicide, harms others or develops an eating disorder, temper tantrums or withdrawal as cries for help, you should talk to a qualified therapist. Robert Street Clinic has a range of psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists trained in child and family therapy. For more information about the individual skills of our can email us at info@robertstclinic.co.nz, call us on 09 973 5950, or contact us via the website.