Communicating with your teen

Many adults are concerned about disruptive behaviour seen in teens.

Increasing trends of violent acts committed by teens in the past several years may indicate that violent behaviour is increasing among youth.

The pressures of modern day society such as bullying in school, decline of family security and the influence of social media may be too taxing for teens. This may lead to disruptive or violent behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse, unsafe sexual experimentation and family conflicts.

Given the circumstances of teenage life in the modern world, it is therefore increasingly important for teenagers to be able to have open communication with a parent or an appropriate adult.

In addition, a concerned parent or adult should arrange for a qualified mental health professional to help address the issues of anger, communication, family conflicts, school problems and taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

Patterns to watch for

Here are a few characteristics or behavioural patterns that may indicate when a careful evaluation may be necessary. It is important not to minimise these behaviours:

Constantly losing one’s temper or intense anger

Regularly arguing with adults

Defying requests actively and often

Extreme impulsiveness

Striking out toward animals (hitting, kicking or even killing)

Constantly blaming others for their own misbehaviour, poor choices or mistakes

Physical aggression towards parents, adults and siblings

Often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others and may initiate physical fights.


Communicating with teenagers may be a lost art in our society, given the distractions of parents’/caregivers’ busy work schedules, after-school programmes/games, Internet, mobile phones, video games and television. Here are some basic guidelines for better communication with teens:

Choose your battles

Remember, not everything will go your way. Make sure why you are battling with your teen and that your battle is for the safety of the teen and others. Remember, parents and adults are not always right.

Listen to your teen

Know what is going on in their life. The defiance you are seeing could be a direct result of an underlying issue that they don’t know how to deal with and have been unwilling to talk about. Be prepared to see what’s behind the behaviour that you may feel is unacceptable. Acknowledge that your teen’s feelings are valid. You want to create an atmosphere in which your child is comfortable sharing with you. Then, as problems surface, you have an open line of communication.

Be consistent

Often, teens will be defiant simply because they know they can get away with it. Provide consequences for their actions, then step back and let your teen make the decision. You may encourage, hope, coax, etc., but if your teen chooses to try drugs or break curfew, for example, he/she is the one making the choice. At this point, you need to enforce the consequence. Remember, it is their responsibility to choose; it is your responsibility to follow through with the consequences.

Give your teens guidance

They may face several situations that they don’t know how to handle, and may fail without your help (being bullied, for example). Confronting the teen for his disruptive behaviour as well as supporting him when necessary will provide a good balance in the teen’s life. Take the opportunity to talk about it. “What do you think about that?” Involve your child; ask for opinions. Children will share a lot with you if you encourage them to talk and you listen. Support them in accessing the appropriate help while respecting their confidentiality. A supportive and non-blaming approach will reap rewards in the future.

Thinn Aung is an EAP counsellor. 
For more information about EAP, please visit To speak with a professional counsellor about this topic or anything else about which you may be concerned, please call 949-9559 to schedule a confidential appointment.