Editor’s note: In this busy world with all its pressures it is easy to lose sight of how we interact with our teens. Sadly, sitting still and focusing on what they have to say, just for the sake of being with them, can seem like one more stressor.
This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW and EWN psychotherapist. Here Kate provides some practical, do-able tips for any parent who wants to be closer to their teen.
Sometimes you have tried in EVERY possible way to help your adolescent and you still see them and your relationship suffering. You feel mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted and don’t know where to turn. Here are a few steps you can try to increase communication and your adolescent’s self-esteem. When nothing seems to be working…..
1. Be involved. This means being present. Turn off your phone, close your book, be close to them with no distractions and be with them. When you give half of yourself then you are telling your adolescent that they are only worthy of half of you. Let them talk. Don’t just be involved when it’s convenient for you.
2. Listen more than talk. If you don’t listen to your adolescent you will never understand them. Ask open-ended questions to help allow for more communication. “I would feel terrible if that happened to me. Is that how you felt?” Try not to react or judge. Nod as they talk to show that you hear what they are saying. Hearing is different than agreeing.
3. Be Realistic. If your adolescent comes to you with a problem be realistic. Encourage them with positive yet realistic words of encouragement. Don’t try to turn them or the situation into something other than what they are presenting to you.
4. Use a sense of humor. Nothing in life is that bad that you can’t make it better with a laugh. Being an adolescent isn’t easy. There are a lot of moments when crying or yelling seems to be the only possible solution. Help them to learn to laugh at life. There is nothing better than a good laugh to make you feel better.
5. Love. Say it. Show it. Love and accept your adolescent whoever they are. Recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to pursue their talents and enjoy success on their terms rather than yours. Don’t point out faults. They already know them. This world is challenging and they need to hear, feel, and sense unconditional LOVE from you.
6. NEVER give up! Repeat steps 1 through 5 as many times as needed. Your teen may not be convinced at first. It can take a while for your genuine focus to get through. Then they will know that you are there for them and won’t judge.
I also encourage the adolescent girl in your life to join my group this fall: Girls In Charge. It is designed to help teenaged girls feel empowered and learn to feel good about “ME”!
Photo courtesy of Steven Shorrok, highersights, via Flickr