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In the movie “Man of the House,” Roland Sharpe is a single father who loves his teenage daughter but has no idea how to talk with her. A group of college cheerleaders gives Roland advice about how to talk with his teenage daughter. The girls ask him what he would like to say. His response is that he would like to tell his daughter he is proud of her and loves her. The girls all acknowledge that is what they would love to hear from their dads. They also go on to say don’t ask about school or such, we will just shut down.
First, you must understand your teen is in a very distinct category. He or she wants to be treated as an adult. However, you know he or she still has a foot in the child zone. And, yes, your teen does not understand that from your point of view it was just a nano-second ago that your teen was a new born baby that were you so very gently holding in your arms afraid he or she might break.
Understanding this different point of view helps to explain the difficulties in creating a communication pattern between parents and teens. Don’t give up; it is possible to communicate with your teen.
Your teen’s world consists of dealing with peer pressure, hormonal changes, academic requirements, and family standards; at the same time trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. This is a tall order for a kid whose brain is still developing.
As adults, we have a better acceptance of who we are; remember teens are still building that picture. Lacking a good self-image picture, teens are much easier to embarrass than are adults. A teen wants to fit in and be treated as an adult. Communication patterns must not step on a teen’s self-esteem or confidence. Yes, your teen will look at simple questions as threatening and they will respond defensively. Ask yourself this question; when talking with your teen, do you help them feel respected and valued?
Look up autobiography on Amazon; all the autobiographies listed support the idea we like to talk about ourselves. Your teen is no different. Your teen wants to be the center of attention; that is, if the attention is positive and risk free. Now think about yourself; would you rather talk with friend who is positive and supportive or someone who is always correcting and giving advice? Your teen is no different.
Teens generally don’t respond well to open-ended questions. A teen will not respond to “how did that make you feel” as well as to “I bet that was exciting.” Teens react to open ended questions with the thought you are not listening to what they are saying. Teens see specific questions as you are processing what they just said.
So what would you rather talk about: what you like, your interests or family arguments, problems, and things you have done wrong? Most of us would rather talk about our likes and your teen is no different. You will find talking with your teens easier if you spend more time talking about their friends, what they like to do and the positive things they have done. Your teens will not respond well if they think you are trying to “fix them.”
Yes, your goal is to help your teen grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. This sometimes means looking for a neutral person to help deal with your teen’s issues. You need to accept that for a counselor to work effectively with your teen, your teen must be 100% confident that discussions with the counselor are 100% confidential. The teen has to view the counselor as “their” counselor, not someone working with their parents to “fix them.”
Adolescent rebellion and indifference is part of life. And yes, sometimes knowing how to speak teen is difficult. But it is not impossible.
Open your word and shine and give understanding to young children. Psalm 119:130
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin, Hope for Tomorrow Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.