The Montfort Group

Parenting Teenagers 101: How to Get Them to Talk

Think back to junior high or high school. You know – the days where life was so easy. No full-time job, no kids to transport to and from soccer games, no bills, etc. I think you see where I’m going with this…

Aside from reminiscing on how simple life was back then, try to remember the days when your parents would try to talk to you. Ugh. You didn’t want to share because “they wouldn’t understand” or it would “just lead to an argument.” I think it’s safe to say we have all been there.

Here’s the truth.

Yes, as you grow older, there are more responsibilities on your shoulders – ones that you can’t even fathom until you’re on your own. It seems easy to say, “if only I knew what I know now” or “life was so simple back then” or “what I would do to go back to those days.”

HOWEVER, when you think back, and I mean, really think back to the good ole days, how good were they? What did it feel like to get your heart broken? Or not make it to the next round of the playoffs? What about when you didn’t get to attend your friend’s party because your family made prior obligations you were unaware of? I’m guessing it didn’t feel good.

And what made it worse? When adults minimized our pain.

I remember being heartbroken – it felt like the world was ending! Like someone was literally ripping my heart out. I really felt I couldn’t see past that moment. My parents tried to help, and now I understand it was with good intention, but back then – everything they said in these moments, felt all wrong to my teenage brain. I didn’t want to hear, “I completely understand sweetie.” I didn’t want to hear “time heals all wounds.” I didn’t want to hear “this too shall pass.” In fact, these were the last things I wanted to hear.

One of the greatest gifts that working with children, teens, and parents has given me is the understanding that it is difficult to see our kids in pain; physically, emotionally, and/or mentally. We try to take away this pain because seeing them uncomfortable is the last thing we want. But what’s the best thing for them? It’s allowing them to feel the way they feel. Don’t try to talk them out of it – because it’s their reality, based on THEIR experience.

And you know when you’re at your wit’s end because your teen won’t talk to you and you try to force communication? Well, it usually ends with you trying to hose down the fire that is the conversation you just tried to have.

They don’t want to hear that you understand entirely – they just want to be heard. Your teenager wants you to simply, listen. For the entirety of their lives, they’ve been told what and when to eat, when to sleep, where they are going and what they are doing. In fact, when you think about it, the choices given to our children are minimal. And then, they express how they feel, and we (unintentionally) take that away too?

So what I’m reminding you to do is – listen.

Remember that developmentally, teens fall victim to concrete thinking. I chalk it up to being part of the human experience; the inability to see past the facts, physical world, or this moment right here and now. And it’s not their fault. Their brain isn’t fully developed yet.

So, use phrases such as “I hear you.” And allow space for teenagers- it’s developmentally appropriate. But don’t be too hard on yourself for not getting it right all the time. You are doing the best you can with the resources you’ve got.

Parenting teens can absolutely be the hardest job in the world, so let us help if we can!

Courtney Strull, MS, LPC

Courtney Strull, MS, LPC

I attended The University of Texas in Austin where I majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. During my undergraduate coursework, I did research under Dr. Rebecca Bigler, where I studied gender and racial attitudes among children. Upon competition of my undergraduate degree, I moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University’s Master of Science in Counseling program and completed all the training to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.

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