Written by: Janine Canaday, LPC, LCPC
The good ole “teenage struggle” is often a very challenging period of life. She often wonders, “Am I pretty enough?” “Will they like me?” “Who will understand me?” There is peer pressure to engage in risky behavior or to look a certain way. Social media, magazines and movies can present “perfect” like images to our young ladies of what is considered to be socially acceptable for body weight, fashion, electronics and so forth. Daily, she is bombarded with strong and impressionable words from her environment that try to define her self worth.
It is Overwhelming.
The world around her is so influential therefore, it is vital for parents to play an integral role in supporting the needs of their teen. Most parents mean well and try to offer advice to their teens on how they were able to manage themselves during those years. You have heard it before. “I was once your age.” “I know what you are going through.” Yes. But, those words do not resonate well with teens. The reality is, teens do not want your advice. They want your love, care, respect and attention.
Here are 5 quick and helpful tips in making sure that you are staying connected to your teen in a meaningful and effective way:
1. Be Present: When you are engaging with your teen, provide her with your undivided and uninterrupted attention. Put your phone and computer down. Make eye contact. Let her know that you are showing up for her physically, emotionally and mentally. This offers her a sense of security, confidence and self-worth.
2. Listen: Teens will often open up more if they feel like they are being heard. Refrain from overreacting, interrupting her as she speaks or over-talking her. She will shut down emotionally and close you out of her world. Instead, stay calm, have open posture, reaffirm that you heard her through non-verbal gestures and facial expressions. This fosters a deeper level of trust and communication.
3. Guidance over advice: Allow her time to navigate her thoughts on how to handle tough situations by talking it out. Ask open ended questions to facilitate healthy dialog. Foster effective communication and guidance through family activities, game night and dinner table discussions. Teens tend to be more receptive when they feel you are helping them through the process of making good choices instead of just telling them how you think they should do it.
4. Provide Structure: Believe it or not, teens want structure. Rules provide a level of stability and predictability. They desire to feel valued, want to contribute to the family structure and have responsibility.
5. Show Empathy: Be understanding of her developing sense of autonomy, independence and desire for personal space. Still set boundaries. Encourage her to consider the perspective of others and to see how her choices can not only affect her, but also impact those around her. This helps her to be more loving and caring towards herself and others.
If you are experiencing any challenges with helping your teen manage herself and the world around her, please have her join a safe space with other teen girls where she can engage in a collective dialogue about the “teenage struggle.” Register for this 6 week group starting in February!!
If you or your teen need additional support to help you navigate challenges with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, work-life balance or trauma, please contact my office today to schedule an appointment!