10 Tips for Nurturing Authentic Conversations with Teens

10 Tips for Nurturing Authentic Conversations with Teens

One of Merion Mercy Academy’s greatest academic strengths is our commitment to effective communication. Beyond the required course Effective Writing, communication skills are taught in all academic disciplines and through oral and written conversations. Merion girls gain the tools and the confidence to express themselves in whatever they do.

This commitment to communication skills is more important than ever as our dependency on screens and gadgets makes it increasingly challenging for children and teens to speak with other humans. Sound like science fiction? Many educators will tell you the moment has already arrived. In a podcast titled “Girls Love REAL Conversation,” Trudy Hall of the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools says, “Educators are experiencing the reality that many Gen Z students are so oriented to screens they actually may need to be taught how to have a conversation with real people.” 

She adds, “I see evidence every day that suggests that we are all in need of learning how to relate to each other, to listen more and to ask good questions.

Beyond what Merion Mercy educators can accomplish in the classroom, parents can also help their daughters become better communicators in a world that desperately needs human interaction. Here's a comprehensive guide on how teens can be taught to engage in genuine conversations in a digital world.

1. Lead by Example:

Teens often mimic the behaviors they observe in adults and peers. As a parent or guardian, exemplify the art of authentic conversation. Put down your own devices when engaging in conversations, maintain eye contact, and show active listening. This demonstration of genuine interaction can inspire teens to follow suit.

2. Digital Detox Periods:

Encourage your daughters to have designated periods of digital detox. Setting aside time away from screens allows them to discover alternative ways of spending time and interacting with others. Activities like board games, outdoor sports, or creative hobbies can provide natural avenues for conversation.

3. Active Listening Skills:

Teach the importance of active listening – truly focusing on the speaker's words rather than formulating a response in their minds. This skill not only improves the quality of the conversation but also enhances empathy and understanding.

4. Practice Empathy:

Empathy forms the foundation of authentic conversations. Help your daughters understand and recognize emotions in others (a skill amplified by our Mercy sisterhood). Encourage them to ask open-ended questions that go beyond the superficial and show genuine interest in the other person's experiences.

5.  Body Language Matters:

A significant portion of communication is nonverbal. Educate teens about the significance of body language—maintaining appropriate posture, making eye contact, and using gestures to enhance their points. This awareness can help convey their thoughts more effectively.

6. Digital Balance:

While gadgets are a part of modern life, it's crucial to strike a balance. Help your daughters recognize the moments when it's appropriate to put away screens and engage in face-to-face conversations. This balance prevents dependency on technology and enhances real-world interactions.

7. Conflict Resolution:

Authentic conversations also involve managing conflicts and disagreements. Teach your daughters how to express their opinions respectfully and listen to opposing views without getting defensive. These conflict-resolution skills are invaluable in personal and professional relationships.

8. Limit Screen Time:

Set reasonable limits on screen time. Excessive gadget usage can hinder face-to-face interactions. Encourage teens to allocate specific hours for screen usage and allocate the rest of the time for personal interactions.

9. Public Speaking and Debate:

Engaging in public speaking or debate activities can significantly enhance teens' conversational abilities. These activities require them to articulate their thoughts clearly and respond to questions and arguments effectively. Encourage your daughter to consider joining Merion Mercy’s award-winning Mock Trial team!

10. Digital Etiquette:

Teach teens about digital etiquette and how it can affect their real-world interactions. Remind them that respectful communication online translates into respectful communication offline.

In a world saturated with technology, it's crucial to guide teens towards cultivating authentic conversations. These conversations enrich their lives by fostering connections, boosting their self-confidence, and enhancing their emotional intelligence. While gadgets and screens aren't going anywhere, the ability to connect face-to-face remains an essential skill. By combining mindful technology usage with dedicated efforts to engage in meaningful conversations, teens can navigate the digital age with confidence and authenticity.