What Should I Do When Communication Is Broken Down With My Teen or Child?

OCD parenting
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

This is a 3-Part Series on Improving Parent-Child Communication

15 Ways to Improve Communication With Your Child or Teen

When communication between parents and teenagers breaks down, it can be a challenging and frustrating experience for both parties. However, it is important to remember that communication breakdowns are a normal part of any relationship and that with effort and patience, it is possible to restore and improve communication. In this blog, we will explore some steps that parents can take when communication with their teens has broken down.

When communication between parents and their children breaks down, it can be a difficult and challenging experience for everyone involved. However, there are steps that parents can take to improve communication and restore positive relationships with their teen or child.

The first step is to take a break from the conversation if it has become heated or emotional. This allows both parties to calm down and approach the situation with a clearer head. Nothing good will come out of a conversation between two frustrated and angry human beings. 

I recently worked with a mother who just wasn’t seeing how her angry tone and body language were contributing to her son’s OCD. Until she saw the positive effect on her son’s OCD behaviors when she calmed her own brain so she could regulate her tone and facial expressions, Margaret just couldn’t make the connection. 

Once emotions have subsided, parents should make an effort to listen actively to their child or teen. This means showing empathy and trying to understand their perspective. Avoid criticism and negative language, and instead, show that you are genuinely interested in their thoughts and feelings. This isn’t easy and requires parents to manage their own emotions and thoughts before trying to engage. 

The next step is probably the hardest for parents because of the misbelief that kids do everything on purpose. Apologizing and making amends is another important step in repairing relationships. If you have said or done something that has hurt your child or teen, apologize and take steps to make amends. This shows your child or teen that you are committed to repairing the relationship and building trust.

When discussing sensitive issues, it is helpful to use “I” statements instead of blaming or accusing your child or teen. For example, instead of saying, “you never listen to me,” try saying, “I feel unheard when you don't seem to listen to me.” This type of language helps to de-escalate tensions and promote understanding. 

When Margaret began to use I statements about how she didn’t know how to support her son’s OCD behavior, it really helped to shift the guilt that she and her son felt and fostered much more control over the OCD.

Steps to Improve Parent-Child Communication

When communication has broken down between a parent and child, it can be challenging to repair the relationship. However, there are some steps that parents can take to help improve communication and restore the relationship

1. Take a break: If the conversation has become heated or emotional, it may be best to take a break and come back to it when everyone has had time to calm down.

2. Listen actively: When communicating with your child, make sure to listen actively and try to understand their perspective. Show empathy and avoid criticism and negative language.

3. Apologize and make amends: If you have said or done something that has hurt your child, apologize and take steps to make amends. This shows your child that you are committed to repairing the relationship and rebuilding trust.

4. Use “I” statements: When discussing sensitive issues with your child, try to use “I” statements instead of blaming or accusing them. For example, instead of saying, “you always forget to do your chores,” try saying, “I feel frustrated when chores aren't done on time.”

5. Find common ground: Look for areas of common ground between you and your child and try to build on these. By focusing on shared goals and interests, you can help to improve communication and strengthen your relationship.

6. Seek outside help: If the communication continues to be a struggle, consider seeking outside help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide guidance and support for both you and your child.

7. Be patient: Improving communication and restoring a relationship takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself, and your child and continue to work on building a positive and supportive relationship.

8. Create a positive environment: Encourage open communication by creating a positive and supportive environment at home. Avoid criticism and negativity, and instead, focus on building a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. 

9. Be flexible: Children and teens are growing and changing rapidly, and it's important to be flexible and adapt to their changing needs and perspectives. Be open to new ideas and perspectives, and try to see things from your teen's point of view.

10. Set clear expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations for behavior and responsibilities to your teen. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts and promote a sense of order and structure in your relationship.

11. Make time for each other: Make time to spend with your teen and engage in activities that you both enjoy. This can help to strengthen your relationship and improve communication by creating positive memories and experiences.

Make time for each other

12. Lead by example: The best way to encourage open and honest communication with your teen is to lead by example. Practice active listening, be respectful and non-judgmental, and communicate openly and honestly.

Lead by example

13. Encourage open dialogue: Encourage your teen to share their thoughts and feelings with you, and create an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you about anything. Listen actively, ask questions, and provide support and guidance when needed.

By following these steps, parents can help to improve communication and restore relationships with their children and teens. Improving communication with your child or teen is a process that takes effort and patience. 

Parents can help to create a positive and supportive environment that encourages open and honest communication. When communication breaks down between parents and their children, it is important to take a break, listen actively, apologize and make amends, and use “I” statements. With patience and effort, parents can improve communication and restore positive relationships with their teen or child.

By building strong and supportive relationships with their teens, parents can support their healthy development and foster a sense of belonging and connectedness that will last a lifetime. Open and honest communication is key to building strong and healthy parent-child relationships, and with effort and patience, parents can ensure that their teens feel heard and understood. 

Remember that communication is a two-way street and that it takes effort from both parties to make it work. So, if you are struggling with communication with your child or teen, take a step back, listen, and make a concerted effort to improve your relationship.

Parent communications


Camacho-Thompson, D. E., Gillen-O'Neel, C., Gonzales, N. A., & Fuligni, A. J. (2016). Financial Strain, Major Family Life Events, and Parental Academic Involvement During Adolescence. Journal of youth and adolescence, 45(6), 1065–1074. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0443-0

Hollmann, J., Gorges, J., & Wild, E. (2016). Motivational antecedents and consequences of the mother–adolescent communication. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(3), 767–780. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-015-0258-8

Wymbs B. T. (2011). Mechanisms underlying the influence of disruptive child behavior on interparental communication. Journal of family psychology: JFP: journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 25(6), 873–884. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025372

Wymbs, B. T., & Pelham, W. E. (2010). Child effects on communication between parents of youth with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of abnormal psychology, 119(2), 366–375. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019034

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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