I Don’t Agree With My Teen

Mood swings. Fighting. Slammed doors. The silent treatment. Eye rolling.

Parents of teenagers often come to our office worried and frustrated about all of these things. The teenage years can be hard, and full of so many changes. And communicating with your teen during that time can seem even harder! Do you feel like conversations with your teen often end up in a blowout argument…one that nobody wins?

These communication struggles during the teenage years are to be expected. Your teen is exploring their own identity and is constantly “testing the waters” to see what they think and feel about an issue or experience. But, disagreements and fighting can be exhausting and often lead both sides to feel defeated. An important part of making these disagreements a little more bearable and more effective is validation.

Validating your teen, or anyone for that matter, does not mean you agree with their choices, opinion, or behaviors. It does mean that you understand what they feel and recognize why emotion might be coming up for them. Validation sends the message that it is okay to experience that emotion, which actually makes teens feel safe to be vulnerable with you. Vulnerability leads to greater honesty and openness.

teen counseling minnesota

Here are some practical steps you can take when you and your teen aren’t seeing eye to eye:

  1. Give your teen your full attention. Try to avoid drafting an email or watching TV as you and your teen are talking. Close your laptop, turn off the TV, and physically turn your body towards your teen so they know you see and hear them fully. If you can’t at that moment, be honest, and then find a time you can both come back and be fully present.
  2. Demonstrate understanding. You don’t have to agree with your teen to understand where they are coming from. Try something like, “It makes sense that you are angry…” Perhaps there are other things that have gone on in their day which are increasing their stress and anxiety. You can likely relate to this.
  3. Look for areas of compromise. Of course, there are going to be some non-negotiables with your teen. Communicate expectations and boundaries directly and clearly and then see where you can both find some small areas of compromise to work toward a solution. Be okay with solving problems “half-way” and continuing to work on them.
  4. Remember it’s okay to take a “time out.” Once emotions are heated to a certain level, no one can give their full attention to the other. This is when parents and teens often spiral into even bigger arguments and greater misunderstanding. Taking a time out allows for you and your teen to calm and soothe big emotions. Be sure to schedule a time to come back to the issue so as not to avoid the conflict or issue at hand. This can sometimes be further invalidating if your teen perceives you have “just forgotten” about something that is important to them. This is something we hear from teens in therapy a lot.
  5. Avoid blaming. The minute a teen hears “It’s all my fault”, whether you explicitly say this or not, they will likely shut down. Blaming creates a sense of shame and can spiral your teen into negative thoughts about themselves, which makes it almost impossible to see solutions or areas of growth.
  6. End on a strength. Do your best to end these hard conversations by pointing out some way you can see your teen is trying. Did they stay on the couch and talk versus going to their room and slamming the door? Recognize that and acknowledge it.

As humans, we are more likely to change when we feel like we CAN. Pointing out areas of growth and strength does not excuse an unwanted behavior, but actually encourages your teen to keep trying.

Conclusion

Hang in there. Effective communication is difficult and exhausting at times. It takes practice.

Do you have any strategies you use that have been helpful during those tough teenage arguments? We’d love to hear from you!

Blog written by Sentier therapist, Tana Welter, MSW, LICSW.

Virtual School Survival Kit for 2020

school post covid-19

The school year is underway, and as expected, it has been hard! Whether you have sent your kiddos back to school in person, or are trying distance learning, this school year has been unlike any year before.

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that will make this virtual learning school year completely pain-free but here a few tools that could help:

  1. Set up a “school space”
  2. Back to school shopping.
  3. Set your child up for success.
  4. Emotions chart
  5. Patience

Set up a “school space”
There’s no need to search through Pinterest for hours on how to set up the ideal remote learning environment and create a space that is designated just for school time. This allows your kiddo to “go to school”/get in the mindset of school and be able to leave the stress of school at the end of their work periods. Let your kid have some choice over what goes into the space, maybe they get to pick out which chair they want, the headphones they use for their zoom calls, or a picture on the wall. This could help them get excited for an unexpected school year.

Back to school shopping.

If you haven’t already and it is in your budget, go back to school shopping. This could be done virtually (yay for online shopping!) or masked up at the store. Back to school shopping is a tradition in many families and may help your child feel some sense of normalcy about returning to school. This will also encourage your child to “get ready” for school each day, which is important so your child can feel their best when school starts.

Set your child up for success.

As we have all learned over the past several months, sitting in front of a long zoom call can be hard. Support you kiddo in staying regulated by setting them up with some tools.

  • Yoga ball or Chair band. Sitting still is hard work, giving your child a way to move their body while they work online can support them in staying engaged. For a list of options check out hobbr.com.
  • Play-Doh/putty. Having something to move in your hands can make listening a lot easier. Consider some Play-Doh or putty for your child to work with while they listen in their school meetings.
  • Gum and crunch snacks. Gum can support kids in staying regulated and focused. An alternative if you are worried about where the gum might end up is crunchy snacks! Try veggie straws or carrot sticks.

chair band for kids  kids yoga ball

Emotions chart.

Consider hanging an emotion chart somewhere in your child’s school space. From the challenges of online learning to complications with internet connection speeds, this year is going to bring up a lot of emotions and children don’t always have the words to express these. Support them in their social and emotional learning as well as their academics! With a quick google search you can find all sorts of different feelings charts.

emotions chart

Patience.

Have patience with your child, your child’s teacher, and most importantly with yourself. This is hard on everyone! Get extra support for yourself and your child(ren) when needed.

What are you doing to make this school year a success for yourself and your child?

Blog written by Annalise John, MSW, LICSW