Time and again in my therapy practice, I help anxious teenagers to improve their relationship with their parents. Sometimes I consult directly with one or both parents singly, whilst at other times the parent and teen are together in a joint session with me. These sessions are invaluable in helping parents to support their teen in the best way.
I have found that improving three key areas of communication can transform relationships and positively impact on the intensity of your teen’s anxiety. I’d like to share these with you here.
What Your Anxious Teenager Most Needs From You
1. To Feel Loved and Accepted
Whilst your anxious teenager may seem somewhat casual or perhaps indifferent in their connection with you, undoubtedly they secretly crave reassurance that you love and accept them just as they are. Sure, you feel this way… but when was the last time you let them know unequivocally how much you love them just for being who they are, and not for what they do? It is when your teen seems most difficult, distant and perhaps even unlovable, that they need the most love and acceptance from you!
Help them to know that you feel proud of them for their qualities and not merely for their actions. Most of the time, your teen may feel judged by their peers and be constantly living with the pressure of trying to ‘fit in’ amongst their friends. This gets misdirected back to you (because subconsciously it may seem like a safe channel of expression). This means that it is common that teenagers may feel silently judged by you, just for being themselves. If you, at times, feel offended that your teen prefers Planet Bedroom to sharing daily space with you, check in with yourself on when was the last time you let them know how much you love them unconditionally, no matter what.
2. To Feel Heard
I notice a recurring theme that teenagers often feel misunderstood by their parents in some way. This can create a huge gulf within the parent/teen relationship. As a result, your teenager may feel distant and non-communicative. Often a teenager will simply give up trying to communicate because they feel there is no point – no matter how much they talk, they simply don’t feel heard and understood. The number one frustration of most teenagers face in their home life experience is that they do not feel really listened to or that their true feelings are fully taken into account.
Instead, they simply feel talked ‘at’ and told what to do, how to think and how to feel! Be curious to understand how your teen feels. Ask open questions that require more than a monosyllabic yes/no answer. Listen carefully right to the end to what they have to say. Gently use eye contact, smile and nod to show you are listening. Then again with eye contact, reflect back what you have heard, beginning with… “I understand that you feel….” Ask them if you have understood properly and if not, get them to clarify then reflect back once more. When you’re busy and your teenager wants to tell you something, either stop what you are doing and give them your full attention or agree on a specific time when you can listen fully.
3. To Know The Boundaries
In this stage of development more than ever teenagers need to feel safe. It is easy to assume that as they grow they need you less. Although their behaviour may suggest this is the case, actually the opposite is true. Teens will often test the boundaries with rebellious behaviour and rudeness. The more trying the behaviour, the more your son or daughter needs to know the boundary is there. Trust that they are testing where the boundary is. When they find it with discipline that is clear and fair, they will initially complain. However what they really will feel is relief, so long as they feel listened to and the boundary is emphasized in a respectful way.
For more information on how to communicate with your teenager, click through the article below.
So if you are struggling to keep your relationship together right now, I want you to feel reassured that these three keys I have outlined above can help you to turn around the failing relationship with your teenager AND help to calm their nervousness in general. Whilst it may seem that peers are the most influential, actually through it all you, as a parent, have a huge influence on how your teenager manages their emotions.
Parenting at this tricky time can feel like walking through a minefield. If you feel you’d benefit from my help directly, simply contact me to arrange a first consultation with me.