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?
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:
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.