Is My Teen Even Listening to Me?!

Have you ever felt like you’re talking into a wind tunnel or as though you’re talking to yourself when, in fact, you’re trying to have a conversation with your teenager? Do you ever feel like they’d rather be anywhere else than be standing in front of you or otherwise being in the same room? If so, you are not alone. And welcome to the season of raising adolescents.

According to several researchers and experts in the field, this is a time when our parenting styles need to shift alongside our kids’ growing needs and brains. Our once effective approach of teaching or lecturing when they were young to get a point across no longer works and they roll their eyes when we launch into reasoning or explaining something. It’s like it’s their job to pinpoint loopholes, highlight where we are wrong and then just turn it all around yelling that we “just don’t understand!”. Is this your teen? Perhaps it’s time we allow them to do the talking while we hold the space and learn how to foster discussions. Or maybe we need to regroup and learn how to truly listen to and hear them. Love and Logic is a long-found parenting approach that emphasizes the use of empathy and natural consequences as opposed to lectures and punishment in order to raise healthy, responsible, functioning members of society. That feels far off sometimes, doesn’t it? But take heart! Here are some steps you can begin implementing today to help bridge the gap between you and your teen:

1). Ask your teen what they think about a certain issue or topic and see what happens. They may look at you like a deer in the headlights, so ask them earnestly. Try to not judge, criticize or respond. Then follow up with another open ended question to help keep the conversation going. And do this again. And then again. It can amaze us how much our teen will open up when we give them the space and safety to do so.

2). When your kid is upset, practice MVE:

M = Mirror. “What I hear you saying, Johnny, is that you are angry we didn’t let you use the car last night when all your friends thought you were picking them up.”

V = Validate. “This makes sense to me because you probably don’t want to let any of them down – especially since you told them you would pick them up.”

E = Empathize. “I imagine you must feel very frustrated right now.”

3). Create a state change when your teenager is upset. It is hard to remain in one state of mind when you tap into another part of your body or brain. Here are some examples you can follow:

a. Are they stuck on homework? Get them to stand up and walk around – or better yet, go outside.

b. Are they angry or depressed? Pull up a YouTube video that you know will make them laugh. Better yet, get them laughing hysterically and you will be amazed at how quickly this can turn them around (and you, too!).

c. Are they stressed? Have them sing, do a headstand, play fetch with the dog, pick up an instrument, take a bath, go for a walk or breathe. Keep in mind they will often watch you for tips on how to care for themselves, so be sure you’re modeling good self-care too.

By choosing and implementing one of these strategies with your adolescent (or tween even, it’s not too early to start), you are well on your way to creating a new type of relationship with your kid. While it is easier to fall back into our default parenting mode, your teen will appreciate your willingness to stretch and grow appropriately right alongside them. Remember that your RELATIONSHIP with your teen is everything! Need more help? Contact Emery Counseling to get connected with one of our therapists who specialize in working with teens and their families.