Re-Opening the Door To Communicating with Your Teenager

By Vera Gabliani, Ph.D.

Parents often ask me “How can I talk to my teenager? They never want to listen to what I have to say!”

As someone who works with teenagers every day, I have had my share of these frustrating experiences. What I have learned the hard way is that teenagers know the difference between a genuine invitation to have a conversation and an adult who wants to “talk to them” to tell them what to do.

I believe that it is our responsibility as adults to recognize and trust our teenagers’ growing competence in thinking through situations and problem solving for themselves. Just like we knew they would learn to walk, we trust that they are learning to work through—in their own way—whatever experience life is presenting. This is where the growth and development of their mind and their character is born.

In my way of thinking, there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities. I have noticed that adults are very preoccupied with preventing their children from making mistakes, forgetting how our perceived “mistakes” were our greatest teachers. While it is important to have boundaries that protect our children, it is often to decrease our anxiety that we are seeking to “guide” our teenagers.

One of our most forgotten and essential roles is to be a good receiver and a witness. So, when I am in a conversation with a teenager and I find myself trying to make a point, I have learned to stop talking and perhaps even more importantly to stop thinking. I sit back, breathe deeply and refocus my attention back to their face, their words and their feelings. I just listen and appreciate the precious moment they are sharing with me to witness them working through their own process. This is the place I can be of support and it is likely to be the most important thing that they need. It is also the only place from which they may ask for and receive input. I find it is a huge relief to take myself out of the role of needing to have the answers for them. Instead I am empowering them to look within to find their own way. In so doing I allow them the grace and the support to do just that. Isn’t that what the process is all about any way?

Dr. Vera welcomes the opportunity to support you and your teenagers. She can be reached at (314)966-0880.