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11-19 Years

During the adolescent years communication skills continue to grow and mature. This is the fastest period of brain development and change since they were babies and toddlers.
Young people still need support to develop the language, listening and communication skills they will need in adulthood

As young people move towards adolescence it is a normal part of their development that they will start to take steps towards independence and this often means they become more interested and influenced by their peers than their parents.

Your child may tell you less about how they are feeling and what they have been doing. Parents and carers can feel like there is a ‘language barrier’ between them and their child.
You may need to adapt your own communication style to keep the lines of communication open. You shouldn’t panic – continue to show that you are interested in what is happening for your child and make the most of time together and your child will come through this stage in time.


  • It can help to understand the developmental changes in young people’s brains that are happening at this time. Look at JustOneNorfolk’s section on the Teenage Brain here it can help make sense of how they might behave.

    Top Tips:

    Your child may have been a chatterbox up until now or may have always been a quieter person. Adolescence can often make communicating with adults feel trickier for young people.

    This does not mean that they don’t have lots of thoughts and feelings and ideas to share.
    How we talk with young people can help them be more open and confident.

    • Pick your moment – tired, hungry teenagers will not be chatty.
    • Start conversations when you are doing something else – driving along, walking the dog, cooking – young people often struggle with too much eye contact
    • Try to listen more than you speak – use open questions to encourage a bigger reply than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ like ‘What was the best thing that happened at school today?’
    • Tap into their passions – it could be music, sport, or the environment. Let them know you are interested and want to hear about what is important to them.

  • Your child may be keen to avoid family mealtimes at this age.

    Eating together is still a very good way of keeping a strong connection between you all.

    Even if you can’t manage it every day a few times a week will make a difference.

    Sticking to boundaries of no phones or screens at mealtimes will make the most of this time. Mealtimes do not have to last for long – you can set a good conversation example in a short time.

    Even if your child is not keen to join in the conversation they can listen to yours;

    • Keep it varied; talk about day to day life, sport, books, films as well as things that are happening in the news.
    • Talk about feelings – your own and those of others – let your child hear lots of words to describe feelings. This will make it easier for them to describe how they feel and understand others.
    • Use humour and silliness – at around this age children begin to understand and enjoy sarcasm, good hearted teasing and ‘in jokes’.
  • Your child may well not call it play anymore but the time they spend with family and friends having fun still teaches young people a lot about how to communicate effectively.

    They may continue to take part in out of school or sport activities. Maybe they like to go to the park to meet friends and are enjoying a little more freedom.

    Helping them understand the importance of following family rules and boundaries can prepare them for the expectations on how they will need to behave as adults in further education and work.
    Try and tempt your child into spending family time together.

    You could try;
    • A multi-player computer game –maybe one that gets you all moving?
    • Card or board games (things like Monopoly can really spark that competitive spirit in young people – and their parents!)
    • Watching a film together and then talk about what you thought – give it a rating

  • Young people may want to spend more time away from the family in their room; playing on game consoles, using social media. This can worry parents but it is a normal part of the move towards being independent adults.

    You may need to negotiate with your teen to ensure that there is a balance between time spent alone, time being with friends and family time.

    This is an important stage as young people continue to learn how to mix and get along with different people
    The ways we communicate has changed so much in recent years and parents and their children are learning how to manage this at the same time as each other.

    Young people have more ways to be in touch than ever before.

    There are good and bad things about this;
    • They can text and instant message friends and family and they can ‘talk to’ and make friends with people they have never met.
    • Young people can stay connected even if they don’t live near their friends.
    • They can seek advice and support from their friends easily.
    • They can ‘meet’ a wide range of people with shared interests.

    However it can also;
    • Put them at risk from bullies 24/7.
    • Mean they are vulnerable to ‘grooming’ by harmful individuals.
    • Stop them from getting practice ‘reading’ people’s body language and speaking out loud.
    • ‘Text Speech’ can be easily misunderstood causing upset and worry.

    You might want some of their online activities to take place in the ‘family rooms’ of your home.
    This means you can keep an eye on what they are doing. They will have you nearby if any difficult situations happen.

    Look at this safety advice together. Let them know they can come to you or another adult they trust if they feel worried or uncomfortable about anything that happens online.

  • Having the confidence to communicate is important for our relationships with family and friends, but also with teachers, health professionals and employers.

    Give your child your full attention when they want to talk and listen to their feelings and opinions.
    You can help your teenager to build confidence and skills by giving them the opportunity to talk to all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways.

    • Get them to make phone calls to book their appointments – practice beforehand what they might need to say. Stay close by for reassurance until they have done this a few times.
    • Take them to visit elderly relatives and neighbours with you. Encourage them to listen to and ask questions about the other person.
    • Encourage them to volunteer to help with younger children at school or after school activity.
    • Avoid ‘speaking for them’ at any appointments or parents evenings.
    • Part-time jobs when they are old enough can really help grow communication confidence.

    Some children will find this easier than others. Praise your child for trying, reassure them that everyone feels shy and awkward sometimes. The more communication opportunities they have the more skills they will learn.


Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

*Click Here* to speak to other Norfolk parents and carers on our online community forum. 

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