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Talking to your teenager

Lazy teenager girl

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Talking to your teenager is no easy feat; Stereotypes of grunty non-communicative teens can lead parents to expect difficulties and to miss the opportunities that are still present in this phase for close times which can result in both parent and child feeling sad and isolated from the other.

The equivalent amount of development that takes place from birth to two and a half years takes place in the key teenage time (varying between 10-14 in some and 13-17 in others).

puberty: changes your daughter will go through

Teen development

The teenage brain goes through a second stage of major development at this time, the body can surge in growth and hormones start to flood through the physical system. All this  can lead your child to feeling very tired, hence the genuine need for longer lie ins and for them to have a real sense of not recognising themselves anymore as they seemingly become a different person.

It is common for teens to hit doubts and anieties about who they are and this will be reflected in their reticence to show too much of themselves through what they say. Alongside this, they wake up to the realisation that adults are also a work in progress rather than all  knowing beings, and hence start to form much stronger bonds with their peer groups who are reflecting the strange and unfamiliar state that they are finding themselves in.

Keep talking

All of this can create stress in a family and reflecting on how you can support them through skilfull communication is one of the key things that will help all of  you through this time. Communication means much more than just having a conversation.  As a parent of a teenager it’s important to develop with them and adapt your communication to fit where they are at.

ListenTalking to your teenager

Active listening is where you put your focus on listening rather than talking and use techniques to help the other person feel safe to open up a bit more. Simple toools like reflecting back a couple of words of what they have said to you to let them know that you have both heard and accepted what they have said is a great way to subltly invite them to say more. Teenagers will often just say a sentence that hangs in the air, and will be waiting to see how it is received before saying any more. If you can respond senstively with something like ‘sounds frustrating’ or ‘wow I can imagine that was hard’ they get the message that you are on their side and will feel safe to carry on.

Don’t judge

Your teen is trying to understand themselves and move away from being told what to do so it’s also really helpful if you can defer judgement about what they are saying and stick to clear reflections of content instead. An example of this would be ‘you want to stay out until midnight’ rather than ‘you want to stay out far too late’. This then allows for a more complete discussion to unfold where at some point you can take responsibility for any concerns that you feel about what is being said, for example ‘I feel anxious about you coming home after the pubs have closed, I would prefer to pick you up at 11 this time.’

Let them know you’re there

Being told that you love them and that you are there for them is the most important thing for your child to hear at any time in their life. There are a million ways of doing this and in the teen phase it shifts from picking them up and showering them with kisses to more subtle but still powerful expressions of your care of them. Make time to just hang out with them on their terms, watch a film that they want to watch, go out to eat or get them to introduce you to an online game that they like or their favourite you tube clip. Enter their world on their terms and respect the boundaries that they put in place.

unhappy teenage boy on laptop

Give them privacy

This takes us into the area of privacy. Establishing trust in themselves to handle their lives is forming at this time and your trust in them is imperative. Avoid asking lots of questions,and definitely avoid the temptation to check their mobile phones or read their facebook page. Clock your own fears and find somewhere that you can offload to. It can be a frightening and painful time for parents to lose the closeness that you shared when they were little, but remind yourself that it’s a nautral phase and that closeness is very likely to retun later if they have enough space  to steadily separate during this phase.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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