Quiz for Parents: How Good Are Your Communication Skills?

Conversations with our children are one of the best ways for us to know them, understand them and stay close to them. Even though they may communicate through behavior, body language and moods, these one-sided methods only tell part of the story and can be tricky to interpret.

Adolescents often rely on friends as a sounding board for advice, answers to questions and ideas to solve problems. If you are wondering how you fit into your teenagers’ world of communication, take this simple true/false quiz to see where you stand.

Test Your Communication Skills: True or False?
1. My teen initiates a conversation with me more than two times a day.

2. I sometimes feel awkward when I talk about sensitive matters.

3. I am caught off-guard when my child asks a tough question.

4. I want to help my teen express himself better.

5. I know what’s on his mind and how he’s hurting.

6. I want to know what my teen is planning to do today and tonight.

7. My child easily admits to a mistake or transgression.

8. I want my teen to ask me about sex rather than ask her peers.

9. I want my teen to believe I am the best person to talk to about anything.

10. My teen rarely tells me that she appreciates what I do for her.

If you answered true to one or more quiz questions, utilizing a “Conversation Companion” can help you open the lines of communication. Based on a simple system of messages and replies, the “Conversation Companion” guides parents and teens into better communication through the written word.

Writing what you want to say is another way of having a conversation to express what’s on your mind. Whether it’s happy, sad or contrite, it’s easier to write it than to say it out loud. Teens can write it in a way that is as relaxed as conversation, without punctuation, without searching for correct spelling. The writing should be open and honest with the understanding that it will be read and responded to by a parent. It should have no right or wrong. It should not resemble schoolwork.

A “Conversation Companion” can be a simple sheet of paper with “Message” printed at the top, followed by empty lines for writing. Halfway down the page is the word “Reply,” also followed by blank lines. Your teen writes a message. It can be in the form of a question or a statement, even a thought. It can ask for permission, guidance, help, recognition or understanding. It can express wonder, wishes, thoughts, desire, sorrow and appreciation.

This paper is then put in a designated place – a neutral location where it is visible to the parent, not hidden away in a child’s room, works best. This message is an open invitation and an obligation for the parent to respond with a reply that addresses the concerns of the child. In this written dialogue, the teen becomes more conversant with the written word.

But because teens are tech-savvy, messages also can be sent via e-mail, instant message or text.

10 Benefitsf The Conversation Companion
1. The “Conversation Companion” is a positive way of getting some attention; therefore teens are likely to communicate more regularly. Because parents have time to think about a reply, the words will be more thoughtful and less judgmental.

2. As all parties become more familiar with the method, awkwardness diminishes.

3. When teens ask tough questions, parents have time to think and are not caught off guard.

4. As teens write messages on a regular basis, their writing skills improve.

5. Over time, teens reveal what’s on their minds and identify where they are hurting.

6. When children are unsure about the safety or morality of their plans, they might not tell their parents with their voices, but hide behind a mask by writing it down on paper as a rehearsal.

7. It can be difficult for parents and children to admit a wrongdoing or a transgression. It’s a lot easier to write it down on paper.

8. Some teens are embarrassed to talk about sex and are more likely to ask questions if they can write them down.

9. Teens realize their parents are the best people to talk with if they can always depend on them for a response.

10. Parents and teens overcome the use of hurtful words blurted out in the heat of an argument and practice a mutual respect for each other.

The message-and-reply system in the “Conversation Companion” is meant to strengthen the bond between you and your teen. In a short time, your child will be more comfortable telling you about himself or herself and with practice will achieve the ultimate benefit: thoughtful, comfortable and honest verbal dialogue.

Ideas to Get You Started
Try the conversation starters listed below:
• I feel …
• I hope …
• I like …
• I need …
• Do you know why …
• Do you understand …
• Do you care …
• Can you please explain …
• I forgot to tell you …
• What should I do about …
• I am sorry …
• Thank you for …

Jean Becker is an author, speaker and trainer. You can download a “Conversation Companion” online at www.jeanbeckerspeaks.com, or call (813) 633-2615.