3 WAYS TO HELP YOUR TEEN FEEL HEARD

Does your teen ever say you just don’t understand me? If so, you are not alone.

As a teen therapist one of the most common things I hear from parents is “my teen won’t talk to me.” It is natural for parents want to connect with their teens and know what is happening in their lives. However, teens have a different perspective. One common thing I hear from teens is that “my parents don’t understand me,” or “my parents just don’t listen,” or “my parents make it all about themselves.”

One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is seeing your child suffer, watching them be in pain. When this happens parents tend to try to solve the problem for their teen, they want to take the pain away. However, They are also giving unwarranted advice, they discuss how they “would handle things.”

Teens, like most of use, aren’t looking for someone to solve their problems, so when you do, it feels really invalidating. It feels like you aren’t listening. As a parent you want to share your years of wisdom and experience. As a teen they want to have their own experience.

Parents often also go into “comfort mode.” They tell their teens everything is going to be okay. How often to get an angry response to this…

Teen: ”No it’s not, how would you know.”

When teens, or anyone really are in distress they don’t feel like things are going to work out. Telling them things will be okay, is the same as telling them their feelings are wrong (at least that’s what they will hear in that moment).

So what do to do instead?

Validate!

 Validation is the acknowledgement of another person’s perspective and feelings. Often parents misunderstand it for complete agreement. This is not true. For example, if your teen says “I hate you, you are the worst parents ever.” You may not be inclined to agree with this. However, you can validate it! You can say “Given the situation (being told no), I can understand that you feel this way.”  Validation is letting them know that you can empathize with them and you understand their perspective.

Here are a few starting points on how to validate:

Listen:

Just listen to what your teen has to say. Don’t interrupt them. Allow them to express their feelings.

Summarize and Reflect:

Reflect it back to them. Show them you are heard them by rephrasing what they said. Ask questions if you need clarification.

Create a safe place for their feelings:

Hold a space for them to feel distress. Sit with them through the pain and tolerate their feelings. Do NOT try to give advice or solve the problem. Just be with them. Let them feel whatever they feel, however, they feel it. You may find that after their feelings have passed they actually ask or your opinion.

When teens feel heard and connected they are more likely to open up.

Keep in mind validation is a practiced skill. Be kind to yourself while you are learning it.

If you need help communicating with your teen Contact Me to schedule your FREE parent screening.

6 UNHELPFUL THINGS WELL-INTENDED PARENTS SAY

You see your teen feeling overwhelmed with school work, struggling with peer relationships, or constantly judging themselves and all you want to do is help them feel better. You do your best to say the right thing, but some words that may sound positive can actually hurt.

Teens don’t come with a “how-to” manual and despite being attentive loving parents we can say pretty unhelpful things sometimes. These aren’t always things said in the middle of an argument, but things we say to comfort or encourage our teens with the best of intentions.

Next time you find yourself ready to say one of these things pause and take a different approach.

1. Practice Makes perfect

It is true that the more you practice a skill the better you can get at it. However, “perfect” doesn’t exist. This not only sends the message that it isn’t okay to make mistakes, but that perfection is expected and to keep trying until they achieve it. Many teens hear that they are not good enough or worthy until they have achieved this perfection.

2. Don’t Worry or Don’t Cry

We say this often to try to comfort our teens, but instead it sends them the message that their feelings don’t count or are wrong. Instead try saying, “I can see why that be worrisome, what are some things you can do to feel less worried?” This shows your teen not only do understand their feelings but believe they are strong enough to address them.

3. How Was School Today?

This question is asked to show interest on your teens life, but is often met with one word answers – Typically, “good,” or “fine.” Instead try asking questions that require more than one word to answer, such as “what did you do for your science project?” or “who did you sit with at lunch?

4. I’m On a Diet

This is something to keep to yourself. If your children or teens hear you discussing watching your weight, being on a diet, or feeling fat they may develop their own body image issues. Instead try saying that you are eating healthy because you like the way it makes you feel.

5. If you don’t start doing better, you will never get a job/get into college

Often parents say this with the intention of getting teens to think about how their current behavior is impacting their future. If you don’t do your homework now or go to school, your hope of going to college won’t happen. However, if your teen is struggling with going to school adding pressure isn’t going to help. This sends them the message that you don’t believe in them. Focus on supporting the current behavior rather than a negative future. Instead try saying “What are some small steps you can take to get to school?

6. You Can’t Imagine the Day I’ve Had

As parents when you get home after a long day at work and the first thing your teen does is ask you for something or start an argument, this one can be easy to say. Often you are trying to get them to be compassionate and empathetic. What your teens hears is “My problems are more important than yours.” Your teen needs you to be fully present even when you don’t want to be. If you need a few minutes to relax, try pulling over listening to relaxing music or meditating in the car for a minutes down the road before walking in the door.

While these are often said with the best intentions, when we know more about how our teens interpret what we are saying we can truly be as helpful as we intended.

For more parenting support contact me here. 

7 WAYS TO BUILD RESILIENCY IN YOUR TEEN

Working with teens I hear a lot of comparing and high expectations they put on themselves. One common things I hear from them is “other people don’t seem to be bothered by this” or “I should be able to handle this.” So why is it that some people seem to be able to handle stress and disappointment without missing a beat and others seem to be overwhelmed?

The answer is resiliency. When teens are resilient, they cope better during and after difficult situations. They ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong. Your teen needs resilience to navigate life’s challenge. All teens can build resilience.

Here are so are some things you can do to help your teen become more resilient:

  1. Spend quality time with your teen

We live in a world that is constantly busy with work and other distractions. Make planned time each week to spend with your time without distractions to listen to them.

  1. Foster your teen to be independent and learn to stand alone.

Let your teen become responsible for waking up, making lunch, etc. Let them suffer their own consequences if they don’t. Let them be responsible for their own homework. Help them without taking over. When they are in the real world you won’t play an active role it is important they start practicing now

  1. Allow your teen to make mistakes, or even FAIL, without trying to fix the situation or take away their pain.

Sounds crazy, I know. The hardest thing for a parent to do is see their child in pain. However, learning to fail and feel distress is an important skill. Failure is an inevitable part of life. We are all imperfect. If your teen forgets an assignment, don’t bring it to them. It will be better for them to learn the responsibility AND to learn that they are okay, they survived, their worth didn’t change. Experiencing mistakes and failure can actually increase self-esteem!

  1. Praise the effort your teen puts into school/sports/etc not the result.

Let your teen know how happy you are that they are studying so hard and practicing rather than the grade they got. This puts the focus on them and what they are doing. When we praise the grade we send the message that the grade is more important. For example, you can say “You have been so responsible studying for your test. I am happy to see all your hard work.”

  1. Nourish your teens interests outside of school.

More and more I hear of teens wanting to quit outside activities so they have more time to study. Academic pressures can become overwhelming. While goals to do well in school can be healthy they should not overshadow the rest of your life. Interests in sports, dance, music, art, scouts, etc help to foster independence, socialization, and more.

  1. Encourage your teen to communicate their needs directly.

Self-advocacy is a skill that can be gained through practice. Help your teen learn how to talk to teachers, administrators or even you. When they need help encourage them to talk to the person directly first. If you must meet with a teacher, include your teen in the conversation. You won’t be able to do this for them later in life.

  1. Know how to argue

Families that work well know how to argue. Family is where we learn how to resolve conflict. Reality is conflict happens. If we grow up in a home that is chaotic teens don’t learn to manage feelings. Children learn to resolve differences of opinions and disappointment is from watching their parents. Teach your teens that it is okay to disagree and how to disagree.

Your teen will inevitably be face challenges and have to learn to cope with them by themselves. Let your teen have a go at sorting out their problems and fighting their own battles before you step in. Fumbles and failures are part of the process.

If your teen is having difficulty coping with challenges or feeling independent there is hope. I’d love to connect and discuss the next best steps in helping your teen find happiness. Click here to schedule your parent screening.

WHY WON’T MY TEEN TALK TO ME? DBT 6 LEVELS OF VALIDATION CAN HELP

As a teen-focused therapist one of the most common things I hear from parents is “my teen won’t talk to me.” Parents want nothing more than to know what their teen is thinking and feeling. On the other hand, one of the most common things I hear from teens is “they don’t listen”, “they don’t understand,” or “they just yell at me.”

Why is there such a different perspective? It is hard for parents to see their teen in pain. Parents often tend to go into “fix it” mode. They give unwarranted advice, discuss how they “would handle things.” They end up trying to problem-solve the emotion away leaving the teen feeling unheard. So what to do instead? Validate! In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Marsha Linehan identified 6 Levels of validation. She believed it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of validation.

Validation: It is that simple.

Validation is the acknowledgement of another person’s perspective and feelings. Often parents mistake it for complete agreement. This is not true. For example, if your teen says “I hate you, you are the worst parents ever,” you may not be inclined to agree with this. However, you can validate it! You can say “Given the situation (being told no), I can understand that you feel this way.”

The first level is being present. When was the last time you gave 100% of your attention to your teen? There are so many ways to be present with your teen, just sitting with them through intense emotions, hugging them when they cry, listening without giving advice, turning off your cellphone and other distractions, etc. The more present you are with your teen the more they will come to you.

The second level is accurate reflection. This is when you show your teen you were listening by verbalizing what you heard them say. Accurate reflection may look like “So I hear you saying..” or “It sounds like you feel…” It is important to remember not to just repeat back their wording verbatim.

The third level of validation is reading your teen’s behavior and guessing what they might be feeling. Not everyone is in touch with their feelings so it may be difficult for your teen to tell you what they feel. Based on what they share and how they behave, you can guess at what they might be feeling. For example, “I’m guessing you were hurt when they didn’t invite you” is a level three validation.

The fourth level is understanding your teen’s behavior in terms of their history and biology. Your teens past experience influence their thoughts and feelings today. If your teen fell from a tree as a child, they may not like heights. An example of a level four validation would be “given your past experience I can understand why you would feel that way.”

The fifth level is normalizing or recognizing emotional reactions. Many teens worry that they are the only one that feels the way they do. Knowing that other people would feel similarly in the same situation helps to reduce the painful reaction. For example, “Of course you’re worried. Taking your driver’s test is scary for a lot of people.”

Level six is radical genuineness. This is when you understand the emotion on a deep level. This is treating your teen as a “real” person with “real” feelings. Radical genuineness meets your teen with love and support demonstrating belief that they are capable of managing their own feelings.

What can validation do?

Validation is a core parenting skill in DBT it encourages your teen to talk to you and communicate with you more openly. Validation helps to build trust and shows your teen that you value what they have to say. Validation communicates respect for your teen. Validation takes practice, so be patient with yourself as you are starting a new form of communication.

Need help communicating with your teen? We can help! Give us a call today at Mindful Healing at (860) 387-5689 or click here to schedule your FREE parent screening.