Hitting a wall when it comes to talking to your teen? Your modern teen may seem like a completely different person from the sweet child you once knew, and there could be some “cold spells” when you only get seem to get monosyllabic answers or grunts out of him or her. However, there are ways to build a better relationship with your teen which begins with better communication. Here are five ways you can engage better with your teen:

1. See them as an individual

You may be most familiar with your child, having cared for him or her since babyhood, but as a teenager, your child must have a chance to be their own person. Allow them the room to think, feel and make choices by themselves. You may not always agree with their decisions or behaviours, but let him or her know that you love and support them unconditionally.

2. Listen more than you speak

Listen when your teen talks instead of figuring out what you want to say to your child. Get to know his or her interests, hobbies, and what is going on at school or with friends. Pay full attention to what your teen is saying by tuning out distractions or putting down whatever you are doing just to listen.

The key is to listen respectfully even though you disagree with what your teen is saying. The idea is not to judge or accuse, or your teen may stop talking. Instead, provide a safe space for conversation by being calm and not reacting. It can help to find common ground to talk about. While you may sometimes feel the generation gap, remember that a sympathetic ear helps to build bridges.

3. Allow independent decision making

The teenage years are about becoming independent, and finding and asserting their individual identity. This also means they want to make their own decisions instead of being told what to do.

Instead of telling, try to provide opinions, suggestions, or ask questions. This way, you let them know that you’re there to guide them as they make their own decisions and exercise control over their choices.

While your teen is given the agency to make decisions, this should be within age-appropriate family rules, such as time limits on technology use, and curfew times. The freedom to make decisions allows your teen to learn to make decisions and be accountable for the consequences of their decisions.

4. Give praise

Your teen may seem cool and above seeking parental approval, but continue to be positive and encourage by giving praise. Your teen wants your approval, and this helps to build your relationship.

5. Be interested in their interests

Put in effort to know and understand your teen’s interests, hobbies, favourite movies, and food. You can do some research first so that you have a recipe to cook with your teen, or know what is trending with popular music, the lives of celebrities, or fashion—all these provide good conversational starters.

If you would like more tips navigating this teenage phase, consider signing up for some parenting programmes .