We are living amidst unprecedented and uncertain times – as if parenting a teenager wasn’t challenging enough! Many parents feel confused about how to engage with their teens, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed themselves. Both you and your teenager are learning to navigate new territory. In times like these, we may feel stretched, strained, and tested. We are all grieving in different ways and deserve support and fresh ideas on how to better communicate with your child. You are already doing better than you think you are and there is also always more to learn. I’ve created a roadmap designed specifically for you, for right now. By practicing these tips below, you’ll have the power to pave a new path, for yourself and for your family.
If the old ways of supporting your teen were working, they’d be working. This is one of the primary reasons I encourage outside of the box parenting; we aren’t meant to be in boxes and neither are our children.
6 Ways To Better Communicate With Your Teenager
I know you hear this a lot, but it’s for a good reason. Breath is essential and we are more aware of this than ever before. Breath helps us to stay present and to regulate our emotions. Only from a balanced place can we move in a balanced direction. This is not only what you as the parent and caretaker needs during times of increased stress, but it is also what your teenager needs from you. They can learn this pattern as you model it while engaging with them.
When you notice worry, fear, or anger bubbling up, this is the moment to attune to yourself. You can say aloud, “I need a minute, can we pause?” Notice your breath. Feel your stomach, close your eyes, or place your feet on the ground and be in the now. Radically accept yourself and your feelings and know that they are simply messages to listen to. Try this alone at first if that’s more comfortable for you.
“Conscious breathing stops your mind.” Eckhart Tolle
2. Be Authentic:
Get really real. Adolescents are allergic to in-authenticity and control. If you’ve ever tried to engage with your teen from a place of obligation, worry, fear, or control, you most likely watched them tune out. Try engaging with curiosity. Adolescents appreciate equality, respect, fairness, choice, and authenticity. They need your compassionate and clear guidance here and to be involved in family decisions, guidelines, and chores.
DON’T pretend to enjoy Fortnite if you can’t stand it but DO learn why your teenager is into technology. This isn’t about being inauthentic, it’s about finding the ways that you can genuinely connect. I have yet to meet a person who I cannot relate to, even if it’s about how awful the world is. Find a way to connect to this if that’s where your child is at. DO involve your teenager in creating family rules and guidelines. Ask for their insight and ideas. This helps them to feel respected and it’s also good practice for them as they prepare for adulthood. This might need to be updated every few months as well, so stay open and prepared for discussions.
“The words you speak become the house you live in.” Hafiz
3. Validation & Curiosity:
You might have found yourself falling back on old parenting patterns like saying, “Because I said so” or trying to fix something rather than listening to what your teen has to say. This is only natural as we are outgrowing this outdated paradigm, however not only are these ways often hurtful, but they are also ineffective. Most of my adolescent clients tell me they wish their parents would listen and that they don’t feel understood. Most of my adult clients say that their teenagers don’t open up to them and they feel like their relationship is disappearing. If your child tried to open up to you and you replied in an invalidating way or with punishment, they aren’t likely to open up again and your relationship could suffer as a result. Instead of focusing on fixing, engage with wonder, and focus on your relationship.
Those who work directly with me, who have already downloaded my free social media guide or who have taken my online course understand why validation is so powerful. When you experience it for yourself you will understand why and you will want to offer this to your teenager. When we tune in and genuinely listen, your teen will feel, seen, heard and respected. This gives your child a chance to emotionally regulate as well as process the current state they are in. It’s only when we skip steps that things fall apart. The three steps are: validate, connect, create.
You can offer validation by nodding along, staying mostly quiet except for reflecting what they are saying to you. “No wonder you are upset” and “Wow, that’s so hard” or “I hear you…is there something I can do to help?” Choose to connect by offering unconditional support. This might include giving your teen some physical space, just like you offered them space to share. You are on the same team and these steps help to remind both of you. You can move onto creating a plan of action after these first two steps. Each step could take anywhere from a few minutes for a few months depending on your circumstances. Book a free session today to experience true validation or get ahead by taking my course while it’s still on sale.
Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated. -Jill Bolte Taylor
4. Practice Presence:
You are only human, so mistakes are part of the process. Your child is always evolving, especially during adolescent years so each bump in the road is an opportunity. Many parents find themselves parenting out of fear instead of from the present moment. And before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Presence isn’t about perfection, it’s about awareness of what is. This is how we check in with ourselves — a skill so needed right now. Even if you are juggling a million things, practicing presence is truly essential if you want a successful relationship. Presence doesn’t mean a false sense of hope or pretending that there isn’t a challenge, but it might mean carving a new pathway. And you already are, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Humans are adaptable. Presence doesn’t mean you always need to be “on”, but it does mean we need to learn how to sit in the discomfort of uncertainty and accept this moment, especially if we expect young people to do the same.
If your teenager is struggling, observe the environment at home. Is there something that could be adjusted to support them? Notice if you are binge-watching the news or feeling overwhelmed by emotions. If so, your teenager may embody this by mirroring similar emotions, or you might observe them trying to find space by spending time in their room or on technology. Supporting your teen starts with noticing how they are coping — and also how you are coping.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” Eckhart Tolle
5. Pain Is A Portal:
Many of us have watched the world around us run from discomfort, trying to avoid pain. We tend to believe that if we ignore the tough stuff, it will go away — but it only makes it stronger, louder, bigger. Know that pain is the beginning of something new, a change. If we ignore it then we don’t allow it the space to transform as it is designed to. Pain is a message. Can you hear what it’s trying to tell you?
Notice your own behaviors and observe how your teen is different or similar. Practice awareness with what is challenging you in life. Try to steer clear of blaming yourself or your teenager and realize that we are all doing the best we can while simultaneously growing. For those who are parenting an especially defiant teenager, check out this article for the dos and don’ts of how to engage during the quarantine or download my free QuaranTeen Survival Guide.
“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” Rumi
6. Have Fun with your Teenager:
Research shows enjoying ourselves and our relationships support our overall health and well-being. Continue to follow the safety protocols encouraged by experts and officials and discover where you have some fun! We are all shedding the layers of our past conditioning and doing our best to unlearn what we learned throughout our own childhoods.
How can you join your teen in playing their favorite video games? Or making videos for TikTok? Or helping them to learn a skill they’ve always been interested in but never had the time for until now? It needs to be authentic so find that curiosity! I have yet to meet a person where there wasn’t a way to connect, even if it’s about how awful the world is. If that’s your teen, find a way to join with them in that space. (For some additional ideas on how to encourage that relationship with your teen click here.) Supporting your teen can actually be fun. Promise! And if it’s too much, find the right support for you and your family. Remember, we all need support sometimes and sometimes, a lot of the time. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay for your teenager not to be okay. It is natural to want happiness and something better.
“A woman becomes a responsible parent when she stops being an obedient child.” Glennon Doyle
Remember, we all need support sometimes and sometimes, a lot of the time. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay for your teenager not to be okay. It is natural to want happiness and something better. We are living amidst unprecedented and uncertain times – as if parenting wasn’t challenging enough already. Many parents feel confused about how to engage with their teens, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed themselves. Both you and your teenager are learning to navigate new territory, so if you feel like you don’t yet have the hang of it, that is to be expected. You are doing better than you think you are.
You’ve got this!
Kirsten Cobabe, MSW supports parents in navigating the waves of adolescence while learning how to talk with their teenagers by becoming authentically curious and truly present. She supports teenagers along their journey to adulthood. As an advocate for families for over two decades, Kirsten has observed the recent and dramatic shifts, along with how to cultivate dynamic transformation. Her validating approach coupled with an open-hearted space form a foundation of radical self-acceptance. She engages families in fostering rapport, cultivating conscious connections, transforming obstacles, and restoring harmony in the home. She believes that through raising our consciousness, we can better raise the next generation. With those Kirsten considers herself honored to work with, specific tools are applied to create lasting change to reshape their worlds. With the right support, anything is possible.
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Download Kirsten’s free QuaranTeen Survival Guide here.
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