Three tips for communicating with your troubled teen.

The theme of the recent Parent Day at Discovery Ranch was Communication. The Clinical staff provided parents with some tips to help them better communicate with their troubled teens. Here are the highlights:

3. Don’t Repeat Yourself

Most parents of teens have experienced the frustration of asking your teen to do something, and not having the teen respond the way you’d like. You may feel like you have talked until you were blue in the face, and your teen still isn’t doing what you want. So… stop. Do not repeat yourself.
If telling your teen something the first three times did not work, telling him or her thirty more times probably is not going to work either. That doesn’t mean your teen “gets away with” whatever he or she is doing (or not doing). It simply means that it is time to develop a new strategy.
Each situation is different, so it’s not possible to provide a one-size-fits-all solution here. However, continuing to do something that consistently had not worked before is not the right solution.

2. Don’t Be a Fixer

As a parent, when your teen has a problem, it’s natural for you to want to jump in and fix things. Protecting your child is your job, right? Well… Maybe not. Your job as a parent is to raise a teen who becomes a healthy, independent adult. Fixing your teen’s problems might not be the best way to achieve that.
Instead, when your teen has a problem, listen, but don’t try to fix the problem yourself. It might be difficult to watch your teen struggle and not come to the rescue. Keep in mind that by not being a fixer, you are helping your teen. You are helping your teen learn problem-solving skills. Moreover, it’s probably better for your teen to learn these skills under your supervision rather than when he or she is older, and in a potentially more difficult situation.

1. Validation Does Not Mean Approval

Giving your teen validation means showing that you understand his or her situation and how he or she feels about it. It does not mean that you agree with or approve of the situation or feelings, just that you listened and understood.
Giving your teen validation can often work well in conjunction with 2. Don’t Be a Fixer. For example, listen thoughtfully to your teen’s situation. Be prepared to validate without handing over a solution. For example, “That sounds like a tough situation. What will you do about it?” or “I understand that you really don’t like what’s happening. What ideas do you have for making it better?”
By validating your teen, you are showing that you are listening and that you care. By turning the question about a solution to him or her, you are showing that you believe your teen is capable of finding a solution. For more information about validation click here.

Building communication can be difficult, especially in situations where trust has been compromised. However, building strong communication is an important step toward rebuilding trust and strong relationships.