Imagine for a minute, your teenager comes home from school, stomps off to their room without saying hello or uttering a single word. Naturally you would be concerned and want to know why are they so upset. So you knock and they yell through the door, for you to leave them alone and go away.
Having raised two teenage boys that would happen to me and it happened more than once. At the time I would follow them into their room, with my hands on my hips and I’d insist they tell me what was going on.
In hindsight, I realize that I was just trying to protect them from the hard edges of life and didn’t want to let them go.
My sons are grown now and they survived those early years and so did I. However, since then I went on to become a counselor and currently work with teenagers at Polaris Teen Center, a facility for adolescents who struggle with psychiatric issues.
Here are just a few of the tips, our therapists give parents who have similar challenges communicating with their teens.
Give them space:
It’s not always necessary to follow a teenager into their bedroom, unless you’re concerned about them hurting themselves. Sometimes they just need a little privacy. It’s often a good idea to wait until you can find a better time to strike up a conversation, perhaps when they cool off a bit. Just be available when they are ready to talk even if openings can be hard to find.
Find activities to do together:
When my boys were young we had certain things we like to do but as they got older they just weren’t interested in going to the park or playing on the swings with me anymore. I had to adapt and try to find new ways to entertain them. That could mean the movies, a concert or perhaps a hike. I even tried getting my sons to go to the gym with me. Not easy, but it worked a couple of times.
Be a good listener:
Many times when my boys came to me with a problem, before they were even done talking, I was already scanning my brain for a way to ‘fix’ it. It was challenging for me to watch them struggle and of course as their mother, Iwanted to give them a Band-Aid. After doing that for some time, I finally learned how to listen without an agenda and hold a safe space for them to share. Often, they are not soliciting advice but just need a place to be heard.
There is a lot going on in the minds of teenagers today and that’s partly to due with the stress of school, homework and peer pressure. Putting them down or using criticism can wear on their fragile self-image and lack of confidence. Instead, try to be positive, acknowledging their efforts, looking for ways to lift them up.
Everyone gets in an argument now and then but that’s not what I’m talking about. I am referring to the constant nitpicking that will only serve to undermine your relationship with your kids. Try not to let the little thing bother you so much. When they do, pause, take a deep breath and try to practice restraint of pen and tongue. When you can re-address the issue in a calm and loving way it will be of much greater benefit to you both.
Raising a teenagers isn’t easy, in fact, it’s probably the hardest time for most parents. For me, it often felt as if I was throwing information over a large, brick wall. I didn’t know if that information was landing by their feet, bopping them on the head or if they even noticed at all.
But if I can offer any encouragement to parents out there who are going through a hard time, even if it may take years, hopefully one day you too will look up like I did and see some of things you tried to teach them actually did land. To learn more about our residential treatment centers for teens, or to schedule a tour, call us at (844) 836-0222.