Let’s be real. Talking with your teenager can be a daunting task. Finding the right words to say or the right time to bring something up can stir up feelings of anxiety. It’s because you care that you feel this way. You want to get your point across without sounding like the “nagging parent” or without shutting out your teenager’s feelings on the issue. As a New Jersey teen therapist, I know this is hard work. But talking to your teen can be done in a healthy way. It’s possible for you and your teen to have meaningful talks for years to come.
“I don’t know anything about my teen’s life”
As a teen therapist in New Jersey, I work with a lot of teens each week. One of the things that they often tell me is, “My parents don’t understand me.” While there may be some truth to it, this can go both ways. A parent may not understand their teen, but perhaps the teen doesn’t understand their parent, either.
I tell parents to mentally go back to when they were teens. For some parents, this may have been decades ago. I tell parents to remember what they were thinking about, worried about, and fascinated with when they were teens. Then I ask them what their teen is thinking about, worried about, and fascinated with in this very moment. Some parents can’t answer that question at all. For some parents, their answers are limited at best.
What this tells me is that there is a lack of communication between parents and teens. That lack of communication creates distance. This distance, in turn, creates misunderstandings when those conversations finally happen.
“My teenager doesn’t want to talk to me”
Communication is so important in all relationships. This is especially true when it comes to parents raising teenagers. Teenagers are trying to find their way in this world. They’re learning about themselves and others. They’re managing school, and extracurricular activities, while also developing new skills. That doesn’t always leave much time or energy for connecting with their family. This is what creates distance.
If you don’t say things like, “Tell me about your day,” you may not hear anything about your teen’s day. Perhaps you’ve tried to get them to talk, but they give you one-word answers. I know it’s not easy to keep trying. But what happens when you don’t take the initiative to ask questions and be curious about your teenager’s activities? You may not be involved in anything they are doing. This can leave you feeling shut out from your teen’s life.
“How can I get through to my teenager?”
You want to communicate with your child. You want to understand one another. So what can be done to better understand your teen? As a teen therapist in New Jersey, I have some insight to share. Here are some tips to get you started.
Tip #1: Schedule time. Designate a certain time of day for conversation between you and your teen. You and your teenager can ask questions about each other’s day and feelings about life’s events. This could be over a shared lunch or dinner time. It could also be when your teenager first makes it through the door after school. Perhaps it’s best to talk when your teenager arrives home from after-school activities, but before they go to their room and lock the door. You can ask your teen what time works for them. Some teens need time to decompress after school and aren’t ready to talk right away. Others may prefer to chat right away before moving on to other activities.
Tip #2: Shared calendars. Have a shared calendar with your teen so that you know where they are and what they are doing. This also helps them know when you’re available to talk and spend time with them. When your teen can see when you are available to spend time with them, it gives them stability and certainty. This can reduce stress levels in your teen.
The calendar could include both the practical and the fun. Include important appointments and meetings that you need to attend. But also include lunch or dinner dates with your teen, shared leisure activities, and free time. Use that free time for spontaneous things like a last-minute trip to the mall or the movies. Anything just for fun! Show them the open times in your calendar and ask them what they’d like to do during that time.
Tip #3: Show interest. Take an interest in what your teen is playing on their headphones, reading, watching on social media, or talking about with their friends. Ask questions and get involved in what they care about. Not because you want to pry, but because you care about what they find entertaining. This could be as simple as saying, “Who’s your favorite artist these days?” or “Do you want to show me some funny TikToks?”
Remember not to be critical of their choices of music, reading material, or the way in which they interact with their friends. Teens have to find their own way in this world. If we criticize them for their choices, we can end up having them shut us out.
Tip #4: Listen more than you talk. When your teen is talking, listen. Really listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it. Teens have a whole language of their own. This develops sometime in later elementary school and carries over to the middle and high school years. If you don’t know what they are talking about, just ask.
There are acronyms and phrases for everything these days and teens use these all day long to express themselves. You’d be amazed at how much more you will understand once you learn the common acronyms and phrases teens are using. As I mentioned in #3, remember to be more curious than you are critical.
Tip #5: Respect their privacy. Your teen is a person growing into an adult. Like you, they need privacy. Your teen might express that they don’t want you searching through their room. This doesn’t always mean that they are hiding something terrible from you. It could be that your teen has a journal or diary in which they keep very personal thoughts and feelings. If you read it, they would be embarrassed or ashamed in some way.
It may be that they don’t like others touching their things. Consider whether or not you would be okay with someone going through your belongings while you are not home. Your teen doesn’t want you searching through their phone. This could be because they are not comfortable with you knowing who they are developing feelings for. Or perhaps they are having issues with a friend and they want to handle it on their own. Think about how you would feel if someone were searching through your phone and giving you unsolicited advice!
Tip #6: Times have changed. Remember that your teen is dealing with issues every day that you likely never had to deal with. Today social media makes our world much more accessible. But it also infiltrates virtually all parts of our lives. Teens don’t just get bullied in person anymore. There are online bullies or “keyboard warriors.” Years ago if someone was bullied at school, they didn’t have to deal with it again at home later that day. Now, we have access to social media. Therefore, teens are experiencing bullying after school and in the form of vicious comments made on social media channels.
Rumors travel much faster today than ever before due to social media. Years ago, a rumor would travel by word of mouth. As horrible as that was, the spoken rumor could take a few days to get to everyone in school. Now a rumor can travel to endless amounts of people with a few clicks on a keyboard. It takes mere seconds to reach its destination. The world in which we live is very different from the world we grew up in and we need to remember that when relating to and understanding teenagers.
Tip #7: Cut the criticism. I know you want the best for your child, but criticism isn’t effective for getting through to them. Do not criticize your teen for making their own choices. Allowing your teen to make decisions without feeling criticized or judged is monumental. This fosters independence and self-confidence.
The world in which we live can be so negative as is. Your teen needs your support as they grow into who they will be. Ultimately you want your teen to be capable of making decisions without you. You won’t can’t always be there to help them forever. Along the same lines, when your teen does something well, make it known by saying so! Teens need to know when they are doing something right. Even if they don’t show it, your praise and approval means a lot to them.
Have You Considered Parent Coaching in New Jersey?
These tips are just the start to establishing a better relationship with your teenager. But the truth is that parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all. The effectiveness of your parenting is influenced by the individual needs of your child.
You might have already tried to consult with other parents. Perhaps that’s when you realized that what worked for them might not work for you. Your child has unique, individualized needs. The people in your life, despite their attempts, might not know how to guide you on this journey.
When your child is struggling with school, sports, or friends, what is your advice to them? Likely you’re going to recommend that they go to a teacher, coach, or peer for help. Parenting should be no different. If you’re ready to make a change, consider working with a New Jersey parenting coach.
Parent coaching with our NJ therapists means learning techniques that are tailored to your family’s needs. Parent coaching can be done individually, with your partner, or as separated co-parents. Our family and teen therapists in Metuchen, NJ are here to help.
How To Start Parent Coaching In New Jersey
- Read our FAQs about therapy.
- Fill out a request form on our contact page to schedule a therapy appointment.
- One of our compassionate team members will contact you within 1 business day (excluding holidays) for a phone consultation. The initial phone consultation is complimentary and helps us learn more about how we can help.
- During the initial phone consultation, our compassionate team member will ask about what you’ve been struggling with, or what you hope to achieve in therapy. We will share information about each of our therapists, including their specialties and availability.
- If we’re a good fit for your needs, we match you with one of our in person therapists in Metuchen, NJ or online New Jersey therapists. If either of us feel we are not the right fit, we can provide the names of other providers who may be able to help.
Work With A Teen Therapist in Metuchen, NJ
Parenting a teenager means dealing with some big emotions from them. Perhaps your teen is making poor decisions or taking their anger out on you. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen your NJ teen struggling with mental health issues. Starting teen therapy in Metuchen, NJ might be the answer you’re looking for.
Parents, we know it’s hard to see your child struggle. You and your family don’t have to walk alone on this journey anymore. Our teen therapists in Metuchen, New Jersey are passionate about working with developing minds and personalities. Our therapists who provide teen counseling in Metuchen, NJ are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family Systems, and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. We want to provide your child with a safe space in therapy, while also keeping you involved throughout the therapy process.
If You’re Still Undecided About Working With A Teen Therapist In Metuchen, NJ, Check Out Our Blog Post: Does My Teen Need Therapy?
To Learn More About Parent Coaching In New Jersey, Read Our FAQs About Therapy Or Contact Us Directly
Morin, A. (2022). The Secret Language of Teens: 116 Text and Social Media Acronyms. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfamily.com/the-secret-language-of-teens-100-social-media-acronyms-2609651