Education has evolved from teaching the 3R’s to a more holistic 21st Century model. This includes the 4C’s of Learning and Innovation Skills: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration. Let’s look at communication for our teens.
In terms of communication, teens have mastered getting their ideas across in abbreviated text format. We want to support our teens to be articulate and compassionate self-advocates.
To be articulate, one needs time to clarify thought and the words to express ideas clearly. Clarity of thought comes from reflection. Does your teen have regular time to reflect? Journaling (with words or images) is a great practice for clarifying thought. Exposure to written and spoken word from a variety of sources also provides a rich resource for articulation.
Compassionate communication…yes! Often, teens at school or in social settings feel pressure to be accepted. So if another student says something unexpected, it could be grounds for cruelty or exclusion. We need to help teens claim their own feelings AND maintain the dignity of the other person. This means taking a moment to process what is said, deciding what one’s boundaries or feelings are, and then responding with clarity and kindness. So fielding a quirky comment about an off-wall-topic could look like: “Wow. It’s unexpected to talk about (insert quirky topic—nostril hair, deodorant scent, etc.). It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. How about we talk about last weekend instead?” Win-win.
Of course, practice enhances performance. Make sure your teen is involved in settings that allow time for rich dialogue. Expose her to varied age groups and perspectives. Minimize screen time, whenever possible. Ask open-ended questions at the dinner table. Create opportunities for meaningful dialogue…you will be impressed by the power and creativity of your teen’s ideas!