When your teenage son or daughter comes home upset, it can be our adult instinct to tell them how to solve the problem or assure them that it’s not much of a problem in the first place. Instead, I want to offer you three simple steps that will help you better understand your teen and strengthen your relationship.
- Listen. Use curiosity and empathy to recognize what is bothering him/her. Make statements like, “Yeah, I can see why you felt left out when she didn’t invite you over,” to show that you understand their feelings. Often, this may make them feel comfortable to keep talking and you can find out more about the situation than you would otherwise. Be grateful that they are coming to you to vent, and try not to use it as a teaching moment.
- Offer. When parents give unsolicited advice, teens often tune it out. The developmental need for independence makes them want to try different solutions than you suggest. After listening, make an open offer. Saying, “If there is anything I can do that would make this easier for you to deal with, let me know” shows you are willing to help without throwing out unwanted guidance.
- Trust. While you want to support your teen, you also want to show you trust in their ability to deal with challenges. If they do come to you for help, brainstorm ways they can manage the situation without your direct involvement. For example, plan a difficult conversation they need to have with a teacher, but resist the urge to call the teacher yourself. Allow your son or daughter the chance to fix the problem or maybe make it worse. Either way, it’s a valuable learning experience, and it’s better they learn the tough lessons while under your roof.