Teenagers- urgh! It almost happens overnight…your child once did what is asked of them without question and then they reach puberty…the arguments, the grunting, the slamming of doors begins as their teen brain becomes flooded with hormones. For the parent everything feels like a battle, and life feels it will never be straight-forward or “easy” again. The teenage years are tough on the teen and tough on the parents and guardians!
In many ways the teenager is at the mercy of their fluctuating hormone levels and they are also highly influenced by their peers. They are pushing the boundaries you have set and they are trying out new things that as parents we may not be happy or in agreement with.
So how can we manage those stressful waves of emotion, hatred and agression our teenager/s may throw at us? Well it isn’t easy! Perhaps the best advice is to not get sucked into the drama yourself as the parent as this makes the situation worse. An awareness of what’s going on for us is therefore very useful, and these tips may help you have better conversations with your teen, and others generally:
Blaming. We don’t like to feel to blame for something and will look for ways to pass that blame onto others (and sometimes very creatively too!). If we blame someone else for something, the other person immediately becomes defensive and a row is highly likely to develop. Look out for language like “you always…” and “but you…” which are very critical and full of blame. Can you change your words to something less inflammatory? Acknowledging how something makes us feel can often take the blame element out and turn things from a row into a discussion.
Dominating. If you finish other’s sentences, or answer for them and not allow them the space to express their own opinions, the conversation may feel competitive and unbalanced. Listen fully to what they have to say (even if you don’t agree!) and let them finish without interrupting. Acknowledge their feelings and empathise with them: for example ,”that sounds really hard…” .
Mixed messages. When one of you makes wrong assumptions or draws inaccurate conclusions it is usually a sign that you haven’t been really listening to, or understood, the other person. Rather than stating your understanding as a fact, check out your understanding of it, ” is it like this….?” rather than “so it’s this…”.
Being aware of these discussion traps we can now look at what to do to have better conversations.
Listen (without interruption)-perhaps set this as a “rule” before you have that chat with your teen. “we will each have 10 mins to say what we think about….and we won’t interrupt the person talking”.
Acknowledge the other person’s feelings (even if they don’t do it back to you). It demonstrates you’re listening.
If you’re getting lost in what they are saying ask for clarification or offer your own: “can I just check I’m following you accurately…”. “Sorry, there’s lots of information there, can I just make sure I’ve understood this…”.
A problem shared is a problem halved. Teenagers, and people generally, want to be able to express their problems, fears, and concerns, and feel that they’ve been heard-they do not usually want or need someone to “fix it”, or tell them what they should do. If they want your advice they’ll ask for it. The teenage years are also the time for making their own mistakes as they are working out their own boundaries.
Rather than offer your solutions to their problems, ask them what they need. And say what you need. “OK so you need to go to this party with your friends. I need to know that you have arrived safely, and I need to know when you’re leaving to come home. How might we manage this?”.
Relationship counselling, is not just for couples. A parent and child, siblings, grandparent and grandchild, friends are all able to attend relationship counselling. Contact Kim in confidence and without obligation for further information on how counselling may help you and your relationships thrive.