Natasha DeMaio, LMFT
Cultivating Connection with your Teenager
Teens will always hold a soft spot in my heart. I did a large portion of my interning years with them. And I enjoy working with them today. One thing they all have in common is they just want to feel understood.
Don’t get me wrong, teenagers can be frustrating. As a mother, I can understand the urge to share all of your wisdom with them. We expect them to always make good decisions and to act like adults. But they aren’t adults and their brains aren’t fully developed therefore can we really expect them to act as if they are?
There’s a good chance you don’t see eye to eye with your teen, but don’t let that get in the way of your connection and your relationship with them.
What makes you feel understood? When someone listens to your thoughts and feelings or when someone lectures you and tells you how it should be done? If lecturing works for your child then you’re one of the lucky ones and this post is not made for you. Lol.
What helps you open up more? When someone acts genuinely interested and curious about your life or criticizes your choices?
By choosing listening instead of lecturing and curiosity instead of criticism your helping your child feel understood. When they feel validated and understood then they open up. This leads to connection.
When teens are comfortable and open then they’re more likely to soak in the teachable moments. For instance, let’s say your child came home from school and said that another student brought drugs to school. If you automatically jump to lecturing and criticizing then your teen will most likely shut down. And even more likely to not talk with you in the future about these important topics. Also, this means you could be missing an opportunity for a teachable moment or connection.
Let’s take this same scenario and (although you’re silently freaking out) you use listening and curiosity. You might ask, “What do you think about him bringing drugs to school?” This opens up an important conversation. It sends a message to your teen that you’re a safe person to talk to.
Criticism closes the communication door. Lecturing locks the door. Keep the door open, parents! And trust me it’s totally normal to be silently freaking out during many conversations. After all, we are parents and ultimately we just want the best for our children.