Ways of talking to your teen that do not shut her off

One of my greatest challenges as a family counsellor is coaching parents in how to talk with their teens.  Here are some ideas which are helpful.

Do you hear yourself saying, “I am just trying to help,”  when your teen daughter flies off the handle and screams into orbit.  Yes, you are trying to help, but she often does not want your help, or your logic, or your wisdom.  She wants your ear and your heart and your presence.  We all want our teens to tell us things.  We want to know what is going on with them and have them share with us when they are challenged.  In order for your teen seek you, she needs to know you are going to be a secure base, non-judgemental, and a listening ear.

Mom and Teen

Your first task is to push the PAUSE BUTTON.  Then the next step is counter intuitive, but you need to DETACH and let go of your own emotional anxieties and needs.  Then just listen until she is done.  Feedback through MIRRORING her language and she will feel you understand her.  If she is ready, ask questions about how she feels, how you can help, or how she is planning to solve her problem.

This is the pause, listen, mirror  approach.


DETACH  One of the most critical aspects to communicating with your teen is to detach with love from the drama.  Hit the pause button right away.  Detach from your own anxieties and needs.
LISTEN for 60 seconds before you say anything….really.  Get out your watch.  The most important thing you have to offer is listening.
MIRROR  Feed back what your daughter is saying NOT giving your feedback.  “It sounds like you are really angry with your teacher.”

Don’t give advice.  I know this sounds impossible, but she is not looking for advice or for your solution to her problems.  She is looking for a secure base, and an opportunity to share her feelings, thoughts and frustrations.  Listen and feel how she feels.

“That must hurt a lot when you feel treated like that.”  As opposed to “Just get off Facebook and you won’t be exposed to all that.”

Do not tell!! Ask questions to get her thinking?

“How do you feel when he doesn’t show up?” As opposed to “Why do you let him treat you that way?  You should not answer the text.”

This is another way of parenting through relationship. Connect and enjoy!

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