Do You Understand Your Teen?

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As a counselor, I have run into plenty of situations in which teenagers had perfectly good reasons not to open up to their parents. The cliche of the teenager refusing to talk to his or her perfectly reasonable parent simply doesn’t always apply. Some parents are emotionally or physically abusive. Other parents may not know that they are being emotionally abusive because their behavior is socially sanctioned, but they are still creating a threatening environment for their teens, which is why their teens understandably won’t open up to them.

Parents who are unknowingly hurting their kids may not be doing it out of anything other than ignorance. Parents who have done abusive things can certainly get better, and they can sometimes repair their relationships with their kids. However, they need to understand that what they were doing was wrong, and they need to be self-aware enough in order to change it in the first place. Even something as simple as trivializing your teen’s problems on a regular basis can create a threatening environment.

If you are a parent who really does believe that teen problems are trivial and the feelings that they have are trivial, then you need a certain degree of self-reflection or your relationship with your teens is always going to be fraught with difficulty. You need to remember the way these feelings felt when you were their age, if that’s possible for you. You should also try to put your own problems in perspective. Adults can have very difficult problems, but there are certainly people elsewhere in the world who have it worse, and listening to them trivializing your problems isn’t going to cause you to open up to them.

The problem may be on your teen’s end. The problem may also be on your end. Understanding the difference is crucial, since you really might need to evaluate your own behavior in a more honest way. Parents who are able to be self-critical in addition to critical of their children will be that much more likely to successfully relate to them.