Right now our children are enduring one of the most difficult and uncertain moments of their lives, as they attempt to navigate this new sense of normalcy.
As parents, we may be struggling with exactly how to help our children through this tumultuous time. It is extremely trying as a parent to see your child suffer. When our children are young and ill-equipped to adequately find solutions to their problems, it is our role to step in and do so for them.
So when our older children approach us with their frustration, whether its that they are bored, overwhelmed with school work, or anxious about an interaction they had with a friend that didn’t go as well as they had hoped, it is our natural inclination to try and offer advice or solutions. This impulsive response, although in our minds, is what is most practical, is actually more focused on easing our own anxieties and less about what they now need in that moment.
What used to work in the past is no longer as effective. Our teenage children do not want to hear your solutions to their problems. They are dysregulated, overwhelmed and frustrated. By sharing your wisdom immediately, your child will only shut you out and disconnect.
Ultimately, what your child needs from you in that moment is to simply be their sounding board. Listen attentively to what it is they are expressing. For teenage girls, this interaction is especially significant, because their minds are wired to analyze and interpret the subtle behaviors of others – eye contact, facial expressions, body positioning. So they will be acutely aware of whether or not they are receiving your undivided attention and presence.
Listen, without interruption to what it is they are dealing with. The adolescent and teenage mind is chaotic – thoughts and feelings are firing endlessly with minimal filter. So sometimes just releasing the experience verbally will help them feel a sense of relief and calm. Although some of that release can feel personal as the parent who is on the receiving end of it, try to remember that your child is dysregulated right now, and feels comfortable enough with you to allow for this vulnerable release.
Take a deep breath, sit quietly with them and just listen.
When you feel that they are done expressing themselves, simply validate their feelings. Something as simple as “That sounds really frustrating. I’m sorry you have to be dealing with that right now,” can go a long way. Your child will feel heard and respected. And truth is, by simply supporting their experience, your child may feel a sense of relief that someone else gets it.
If you feel its appropriate, you can always ask if there is anything they need from you in this moment. Chances are, they will say no. But just by asking, you have reaffirmed for them that they are not alone in this.
If they do eventually want your assistance, make sure to reinforce confidence within them. Remind them of the specific strengths they posses that will help them during this difficult time. We are all feeling burnt out and vulnerable right now. Having someone remind us of what skills we innately possess is empowering. As their parent, work to play on their strengths, guiding them towards healthy answers without telling them what to do. Be there as a support, encouraging them to find a solution that makes sense for them.
Continuing to practice these interactions during such a vulnerable time will prove useful even as life begins to transition back to normal. Being able to connect with your child as they endure the endless adversities of teenage life, will not only ignite insight and confidence within your child, but will also strengthen the foundation in your relationship with them.