Updated: Sep 4, 2021
CONNECTING WITH OUR TEENS
“Oh! My parents will never understand me?!? – this is the oft-repeated line that I hear in my sessions with the secondary school students whom I counsel. Ironical it is, that their parents also have the same complaint – “Our son/daughter is so difficult”!!! And of course, there is always a classic parental refrain, “We were never like this when we were growing up!”
No matter how “cool” our generation of parents is trying to be by using all the latest slangs (thanks to Google!), we still struggle to build a rapport with our dudes and dudettes and ultimately end up being “try-hards”! So, is there a way to connect with our teenagers at all??
Being a counsellor, I have learnt that rapport-building is the first and most important step towards developing a trusting relationship with clients. From my experience, not just as a counsellor but also as a mother of a 16-year old, I would like to share some basic steps that can help us establish a connect with our teens:
DO NOT COMPARE WITH YOURSELF: Isn’t it unfair to compare our own growing up years to that of our teens?!? We need to acknowledge that there is a vast difference between then and now. Our kids are growing up in nuclear families in a highly digital world where they are over exposed to sex and violence among other things through media and movies. Once we have accepted this fact, let’s move on to the next step.
CREATE A “FAMILY TIME”: Physical proximity with our kids does not guarantee effective communication. So, it is important for us to make it a habit to spend at least half an hour with our teen every single day. This can be done while having dinner or during a post-dinner stroll or any other time as per convenience. Please note, gadgets are strictly NOT allowed! Now, let’s move on to the next step to know what exactly do we need to do in this time slot.
SHARE TODAY’S EVENTS AND THOUGHTS: During this “family-time” both the parents as well as the children will narrate one (or more) significant happenings of the day and how they feel about them. That’s easy… isn’t it?!? But there are 2 strict rules to follow while this session is on. See the next step to know the first rule.
LISTEN WITH EMPATHY: So, the first rule is that we are not just listening but listening empathically. For this we will be required to step into our teens’ shoes and see things from their perspective. This should be done in an absolutely genuine manner and without being judgmental. Ok…If it’s impossible for some of us to be totally non-judgmental, at least we can park our judgement aside and not let it act as a spoiler here. Well, if you think this step is tough, brace yourself for the next one!
DO NOT GIVE UNSOLICITED ADVICE: This is our rule no.2. Now, when our child is doing the talking, we will obviously be tempted to jump-in and start giving our inputs. We are the parents after-all! But, this is what we must resist. So, unless our child is asking for our advice, we will NOT give it. Now you know why this is the toughest part!
These steps may appear to be slightly difficult to practice at the beginning as we parents might have to unlearn a few of our existing ways of approaching our kids. But if done patiently and consistently, this will help us tremendously in striking a chord with our teens and help us build the emotional connect that we are all pining for.