Sickle cell disease and communication: Keeping it positive

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While it may not be possible to completely eliminate negative communication with your teen, you can create balance by increasing positive communication. Discover five tips for more positive communication with your teen.

Key points

  • Research shows that parents spend less than 20 minutes a day, on average, talking with teens. The purpose of this communication is often to complain, give a command or ask for assistance.
  • You may not be able to eliminate negative communication, but you can create a better balance by increasing the positives.
  • Having more positive communication with your teen can help you and your teen feel closer.

Research shows that parents spend very little time actually talking with teens (less than 20 minutes a day, on average). This means that the purpose of parent-to-teen communication is often to complain, give a command or ask for assistance. Not all of this communication is negative. Some of it, such as making car arrangements, might simply be necessary.

Think about your daily balance of positive, encouraging words that you say to your teen compared to the number of complaints, orders, criticisms, warnings, pleadings, lectures or discouraging words.

Tips for positive communication

More positive communication will help you feel closer to your teen. A positive environment for communication may also make it more likely that your teen will open up, listen and take your advice. It is impossible to completely eliminate negative communication, so the best way to strike a balance is to increase the positives.

Here are five tips for positive communication:

  1. Show physical affection. Teens are still kids; they need the warm feelings of belonging that come from supportive touches and hugs.
  2. Comment on the positives. Notice what your teen is doing or trying to do each day, and comment on the progress they are making, regardless of whether they have reached their goal. Pay less attention to any mistakes they are making.
  3. Have a weekly or bi-weekly family meeting. Give everyone a chance to share what is going well at home, or what they would like to change or work on. This makes kids feel like their opinions matter and their voices are being heard. Get input from each person on rules, curfews and so on, as well as on the consequences of breaking rules. Make agreements, try them out and change them as needed.
  4. Give straightforward advice. This is especially important for topics such as sex, drinking and drugs. However, do not keep repeating it. Teens need to hear your opinions but not over and over again.
  5. Reduce negativity in the house. Reducing general chaos and arguing between all family members is positive for everyone, not just your teen. Good communication is more likely to happen when the atmosphere is calm.

In addition to following the tips above, it is recommended that the adults in your family avoid talking about problems related to your teen's sickle cell disease in front of your teen or their siblings. Teens often feel like they are burdening their parents, and hearing parents discussing things such as frustrations with doctors, health insurance, and so on can be very stressful for them to hear directly from you or from a sibling. Find a private time and place to discuss these issues and vent your frustrations.

Creating opportunities for positive communication

For teens with sickle cell disease, conversations with parents can become heavily focused on the disease itself or on symptoms such as pain. Given the limited amount of time that most parents spend talking with their teen each day, it is important to create opportunities to communicate with your teen, making a range of healthy topics a priority.

Take time to relax and have fun with your teen. Teens need to learn positive ways to manage stress, and enjoying each other’s company will build lifetime relationships. Establish regular one-on-one time with your teen, like one night a week that you cook dinner together, go to the mall together or play a game together. Be sure to laugh together!

Increasing physical activity is an important part of managing sickle cell disease pain and is a good way to spend time with your teen. Go for a walk or to the gym, or play a sport together.

Think of at least two activities you would like to try doing with your teen.

Last updated: March 15th 2024