Creating a Life Free From Chaos

5 Ways to Improve Communication with Your Teen

This is a guest post by Dale DePalatis. His new book, Parenting from the Periphery, is now available on Amazon.

5 Ways to Improve Communication with your Teens. Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

Have you ever looked across the breakfast table at your earbud plugged, morose, self-absorbed teenager and thought, “How do I communicate with this alien?”

I’ve been a high school teacher for 28 years, and I am a parent of three young adult children. These two things have conspired to teach me a few things about teenagers and their parents over the years. It is possible to break through to deeper communication with your teen.

I’d like to share five simple ways to develop and maintain good communication with teens even as they go through the throes of hormones, puberty, general gnarliness and grunge that characterize this strange period of life.

1 | Give them choices. 

Most kids under 10 are used to their parents ordering them around.

“Time to get up.” 

“Be ready to go at 7:00!”

“We’ll be going to your grandparents for Christmas, so I want you to remember to be on your good behavior!”

Although it’s a very good idea to teach your young kids to obey you, it doesn’t work as well when those same kids become teens. 

“I don’t want to get up. Leave me alone! I can get myself up.”

“Why do we have to leave so early?”

“Why do we always have to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s place? It’s boring!”

When your kids start to challenge the orders you give them, instead of dropping the draconian punishment boom on their heads, try to give them a few more choices and let them participate in the decision-making. 

“You decide when you want to get up, but make sure you give yourself enough time to get ready.” 

“I’d like to leave at 7:00, but 7:15 is okay if you’re okay with not having much time to get to your locker before class starts.”

“We haven’t been to Grandma and Grandpa’s place for awhile. We’re thinking this weekend might be good. What is your schedule like? Would this weekend be better or next?” 

Even giving a little bit of choice to your developing young adult will make them feel like they aren’t being treated like a little kid.

2 | Give them space.

Teenagers are in a period of massive change. Some kids grow a foot or more in a year. Radical changes are happening in the body due to hormones. For girls, periods are starting. For boys, the body reacts in different ways when girls are around. 

In the midst of all the physical changes, young people are adjusting to new social situations in middle school and high school. Bigger schools, more anonymity, peer pressure, etc. 

Finally, this is the time when kids are differentiating from their parents. The peer group’s voices become more important than their parents. 

So, give them some space!

With all those changes going on, at times they just need to do nothing. If they aren’t feeling like talking, don’t push it. If they don’t want to go along with the family to Grandma’s house this weekend, let them stay home and work on their homework or just vegetate a bit. If they want to just sit, let them sit.

3 | Talk with them like you would an adult.

Ever heard these words coming out of your mouth as you speak to your teen?

“Finish your dinner.”

“This weekend we’re going on a hike together as a family.”

“I want you to finish your homework before you do anything else tonight.”

The above are the kind of utterances a parent makes to a small child. If you talk like this with your teens, they will feel like you’re treating them like a small child and will resent it. 

Think about it. The main task your teenager is working on is how to grow up to be an adult. Will talking with them like a child help them do that? 

A basic rule of thumb is to think about what words you’d use with a co-worker. 

Instead of telling a co-worker to finish his dinner, you might ask him if he didn’t like it and why. If you wanted to go on a hike with a co-worker, you’d first ask him if he’d like to go, then throw out some suggestions for places that could be discussed. And it’s unlikely you’d place conditions on your co-worker that he or she has to finish a certain amount of work before going to lunch. 

4 | Don’t overreact to their failures.

Have you ever freaked out as a parent over something your child did?

“You backed the car into the wall! Pay attention!”

“You got another ‘D’! You are grounded until you get those grades up!”

“Why didn’t you call me? It’s two in the morning!”

We love our kids, and it’s hard to see them making questionable or even downright foolish choices in life. Overreacting to the sometimes-stupid things they do is the best way to get them to clam up and determine to keep you in the dark about later events in their lives.

Instead, be an adult, and talk with them as you would another adult.

“Oops! It looks like you backed up a little too far. Do you think you can get this car out of the rose bushes without too much damage?”

“It seems like you’re struggling in Geometry. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Yeah, I’ve lost track of the time before, too, but it’s important for us to know where you are when it gets late. How do you think you can do better on that?”

Calm, reasoned questions that ask the teen to take adult responsibility will go a long way in developing the likelihood that they’ll share the next stumble with you.

5 | Listen to them with respect.

Finally, listen to your children. 

Really listen. 

When you ask them to respond like an adult, listen for an adult-like answer and respect their opinion. 

Although they may not always respond like an adult, listen for adult-like reactions and encourage those. 

“Do you think you can get your clothes washed today? It’s harder to get done during the school week.”

“I hate doing the wash! Do I have to?”

“It’s up to you. I know you don’t like it much when you run out of socks in the middle of the week.” 

“All right. I guess I can get it started this morning.” 

“If I hear the washer finish, I’ll try to help you by shifting the laundry to the dryer.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

You might be surprised how giving your teenager some choices and space, then speaking with them like an adult and respectfully listening to their answers will develop a much smoother communication between you.

Dale DePalatis is a high school English teacher in Carmel, California. He’s recently published a book, Parenting from the Periphery, that gives more insight into why teenagers are the way they are and how parents can help them navigate those difficult and sometimes dangerous waters of pre-adulthood. 

How to Declutter Your Closet

How to Declutter Your Closet / Modern Simplicity. Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

It may seem like winter is here to stay, but spring really is on the way! If you haven’t decluttered your closet lately, it’s time to get started. I recently did a massive KonMari-style purge of my clothes. I wanted to decide what items of worn-out winter clothing needed to make an exit, plus I needed to make a shopping list to fill in the gaps of my spring/summer wardrobe before an upcoming spring break trip where it is most definitely warm. 

I purged my own clothes first (closet and dresser) before rounding up the boys to go through their clothing. While I didn’t do much hands-on purging for them, I oversaw the process and gave them some guidelines so they’d know what to do.

Here’s a step-by-step process for decluttering your closet in preparation for a new season.

Laundry first!

Catch up on laundry! It’s hard to purge your closet when a bunch of it is in a hamper or in the washing machine. Wash it all, dry it, and bring it to the “scene of the crime” — aka wherever you’re doing the purging. For us, we got out every clothing item and put it on the bed for evaluation.


Time to wade through the pile. Start by pulling out anything you don’t love, don’t wear, or doesn’t fit. Pull out anything that has unwashable stains, holes, rips, or that needs to be altered in any way. If you haven’t worn it in a year or two, take it out. Be honest with yourself here — if you’re not wearing it and have no plans to, it’s just taking up precious storage space in your home. 


Bag up the discards and put them by the door to drop off for charity. Bag up anything that needs to be altered or repaired and make plans to take it to the tailor or fix it yourself in the next week. 


For the clothes you have left, it’s time to put them away in a nice, organized fashion. Arrange the clothes by category — pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, t-shirts, pjs, etc. If you want, you can divide them further by sleeve length and color.


Hang up clothes you like to see in the closet — for me, that’s dresses, skirts, dress pants, and most shirts (except t-shirts). I may also be a little weird this way, but I like all of my hangers to match, so I invested in a bunch of white plastic hangers for a uniform look. For clothes you like to fold, consider using the fold-and-file method of vertical drawer organizing, made popular by Marie Kondo. This involves folding clothes into small squares or rectangles, then storing them upright in your drawer (instead of in stacks) so you can see each piece and nothing gets buried. This piece has some great visuals to show you how to fold. I like this method so much that I now pack my suitcase using the fold-and-file method as well.  

List out the gaps

As you hang and fold to put your clothes away, keep a running list of items you need to fill in your wardrobe. Then you can keep an eye out for the perfect piece while you’re shopping and avoid frantic trips to the mall later. In this particular purge, I realized I have no casual sleeveless tops for spring, and I needed a nice black skirt that would travel well for several upcoming trips. My older son had no swimsuit or shorts that fit (which he’ll need for spring break!) My younger son only needed some new jeans to fit his rapidly lengthing legs. Both need new sandals or flip flops too. They enjoyed a quick shopping spree to Target to fill in the gaps in their wardrobes. I turned to ThredUp for mine — I love picking up secondhand clothes in my favorite brands that look new and cost a fraction of retail. 

Repeat for shoes and bags

Repeat the above steps for shoes and handbags. It’s good to go through this process every time the weather changes for the season, especially if you rotate storage with out-of-season clothes. We no longer have out-of-season storage except for winter coats and gloves/scarves/stocking caps. If you have kids, you may also need to do a quick purge whenever you notice a growth spurt — that’s not something you can plan on a calendar! 

How to Declutter Your Closet / Modern Simplicity

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small percentage from sales made using affiliate links. Thanks so much!

Quick Tips to Stay on Top of Bill Paying (Video)

Quick Tips to Stay on Top of Bill Paying (Video) * Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Hey guys! Today I have a quick video for you on the subject of bill paying. I’m experimenting with doing more videos, so let me know what you think! I even have a newly revived YouTube channel here. Enjoy!