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How to Communicate Effectively with Your Teen

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Are you struggling to communicate effectively with your teen?  You may go through a period where you’ve been communicatingHow to communicate effectively with your teen rather effectively with them for years, then we hit the proverbial wall!  It seems sudden, but they have been developing right under our noses.  They now have the ability to think for themselves and formulate opinions!  Suddenly we find ourselves making statements like, “I don’t even know who my child is anymore”, “Where did I go wrong”, “How do I get through to them”…The list goes on and on.  Sound familiar?

 

Getting to Win-Win with My Teen

 Communication begins to change for two equally important reasons.  Budding teenagers are growing not only physically but mentally as well.  Their brains are developing new connections which allow them to think more abstractly.  They want more information and are no longer satisfied with basic answers.  They are forming their own opinions and need to test the boundaries of their decisions.  Second, as all parents are aware, in the teen years, peer groups become central and influence your child’s thoughts and opinions.  Remember to choose your battles.  Ask yourself, what is your goal as a parent?  Is it to teach them to be a critical thinker and make good decisions or is it to always rely on people telling them which decisions they need to make? The better communication you have with your teen, the greater confidence and self- esteem your child is likely to have. A parent who respects their teen’s ability to think through information and make decisions helps lead their child to a greater sense of self.

Six Tips for Communicating with Your Teen

  1. Have a conversation – Listen as much or more than you talk. This is not a time for lecturing.

  2. Respect their point of view – you may not agree, but rather than engaging in the shaming/blaming game or coming across as judging their decisions or straight up taking over and telling them how they should think, engage them in evaluating their thoughts and decisions on their own. (Pros/Cons list, etc.)

  3. Be the adult, teens don’t want you to be their friend (even if they tell you that)

  4. Use positive forms of communication, focus on positive outcomes

  5. Be open to spontaneous conversations – in the car, at the store, anywhere.

  6. Praise, Praise, and more Praise!

See my Reading Recommendations

What is Play Therapy?

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC

Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. When adults have problems it often helps if they can share their thoughts and feelings with a therapist or a trusted friend. Children don’t have the cognitive ability to express themselves with words like adults do, so it is difficult for them to “talk” about things that worry or bother them. Play therapy allows children to communicate through play, their most natural form of expression, learning and developing. The play therapist strives to understand the metaphorical content of a child’s play and to help the child express their needs and discover solutions in a safe, therapeutic environment. The toys in the playroom and the relationship established with the therapist offer children the opportunity to use the power of their own natural creativity and imagination to heal and grow. Play therapy allows the child to create a world they can master, practice social skills, overcome frightening feelings, and symbolically triumph over minor upsets as well as traumas that have stolen their sense of well being.


Who may benefit from play therapy?

In the process of growing up, many children experience difficulty coping at some time. Although many childhood upsets are healed without therapy, play therapy offers children a natural, safe, and non intrusive method to hasten recovery from common distressing events as well as major traumas, or to simply enhance the self esteem of the child.


Play therapy can be helpful for children who:

  • Demonstrate emotional distress such as excessive anger, anxiety, fear, sadness or shyness, have low self-esteem or talk about not wanting to live.
  • Exhibit physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches which have no medical cause.
  • Exhibit problem behaviors which are immature for the child’s age, interfere with making friends, or are difficult to manage at home. These can include tantrums, defiance, and/or problems with eating, sleeping or elimination.
  • Experience stressful events such as:
    • Death, illness, or injury of a family member
    • Divorce or separation of parents
    • Additions to the family including new siblings, remarriage and blended families
    • Natural disasters or catastrophic events
    • Chronic illness or hospitalization
    • Family conflict and violence
    • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
    • School anxiety
    • Separation anxiety
    • Disruptions in normal functioning
    • Social difficulties

See my Reading Recommendations

Tips to Improve Your Childs Self Esteem

Author: Stephanie Camins – MA,LPC
  • Praise your child
  • Set realistic goals
  • Play with your child
  • Acknowledge a positive thing your child has done to/for another person when your child is listening
  • Write an encouraging message to your child
  • Spend 10 minutes before bed checking in about your child’s day
  • Be involved with school projects
  • Be consistent
  • Be responsive
  • Give age appropriate responsibilities
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Encourage problem solving
  • Involve children in a variety of activities
  • Teach optimism, be positive
  • Give simple, clear directions
  • Use reflective listening
  • Be a good role model for behavior you’d like to see
  • Take your child’s ideas seriously
  • Have reasonable expectations
  • Be available
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs
  • Accept your child’s feelings
  • Be aware of their goals
  • Be creative together
  • Let children make choices


Taking Time to Be Together for Play and Fun

  • Take a walk with a child, daytime or nighttime.
  • Play golf or go fishing with a child.
  • Take one child to lunch or dinner or to a weekend breakfast.
  • Leave extra, padded time each night to tuck them in, be together and talk.
  • Schedule time with each of your children each week.
  • Read a longer ‘chapter’ book with your school-age child.
  • Play basketball together (no coaching), throw a ball back and forth.
  • Plant something together.
  • Cook or bake together.
  • Make something (craft, sewing, hobby) together. Remember whose project it is.
  • Play cards, checkers, board games.
  • Create and build traditions- holiday, weekly, personal, bedtime, weekend.


Encourage Autonomy

  • Let children make choices.
    “Would you like the red or the blue cup?”
  • Let children lead: Set aside playtime with your child, and let him/her lead the way. Use this time to play without questioning, directing or teaching.
  • Show respect for a child’s struggle without jumping to the rescue- return responsibility back to the child. Encourage problem solving.
    “Getting dressed can be hard work. Where are you going to start?”
  • Avoid asking questions. Instead, reflect what you see and hear. Make welcoming statements.
    “Your back before I expected you.”
    “Looks like your having trouble deciding what to do.”
    “Good to see you!”
  • Encourage children to use sources of support outside the home.
    “Maybe the pet shop owner would have a suggestion.”
  • Don’t take away hope.
    “So your thinking of trying out for the talent show- that should be quite an experience!”
  • Notice your child’s accomplishments; avoid evaluating or judging them. In this way, your child will learn to value/respect himself.
    “You used a lot of green and purple in this picture.”
    “You are working so hard to get that exactly like you want it.”
    “You remembered to brush your teeth all by yourself!”

Adapted from: Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish:  HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK.
Gary Landreth:   PLAY THERAPY: THE ART OF THE RELATIONSHIP


Improving Communication With Your Child

As parents, one of the hardest things to do is to watch or listen to your child struggle with difficult emotions. Parents usually try whatever it takes to make those negative feelings go away. However, children need to have their feelings accepted and respected just as adults do. Helping children deal with their feelings by not jumping in to the rescue can deescalate the situation, feel validating to the child, and improve your relationship with your child by opening doors to more communication. Try the following:

  • Just LISTEN quietly and attentively.
  • Acknowledge their feelings with a word:
    “Oh..Mmmm..I see…..”
  • Give the feeling a name:
    “That sounds really frustrating!”
  • Give the child his/her wishes in fantasy:
    “I wish I could make it stop raining for you right now!!”

All feelings can be accepted. Your words do not have to say, “I agree”…
They do need to communicate, “I understand, I am here.”

Adapted from: Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK

See my Reading Recommendations