What parents say to their teenagers can have a massive impact on their lives. The old adage, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” doesn’t apply when it comes to parents speaking to their teens. Even when angry with their parents, teens are still children who want the love and acceptance of their parents, so harsh words from parents can be exceptionally painful for teenagers.
If you want to help your teen, there are six things you can say to your teenager that can change their life.
Everyone needs to feel heard, and for your teen, you may be the only authority figure in their life that will actually listen to them and their concerns. However, along with saying the words, “I’m listening,” it is important that you take an active listener role.
For instance, say your teen comes home from school and is clearly upset. When you initially ask what is wrong, your teen may push back and say you won’t care. You can respond that you are listening and really want to know. As your teen tells you about what upset them, try not to interrupt.
Also, avoid having the first thing you say to be a solution. While you may have very helpful advice, it is best to ask something clarifying or make a statement that shows you heard. For example, “So, if I heard you correctly, your friend said,” etc.—that way, your teen feels like you acknowledge what they have said and feel.
“I’m Proud Of You”
Learning to express positive affirmations, like being proud of someone, is a critical skill for parents to cultivate. It can feel a little embarrassing to go out of your way to say “I’m proud of you” to your teen, but adolescents need their parents to say it outright, rather than trying to infer your pride from your actions.
Part of what makes residential treatment centers more effective than boot camps and military schools for troubled teens is how attending teenagers are treated. Teens at boot camps and military schools often only are addressed when doing something wrong, as doing the right thing is considered the default. But for struggling teens, to help encourage them to make the best choices, it is vital that they receive positive feedback to assist in keeping them on the right track.
“How Can I Help?”
Some teens can feel trapped by their circumstances, whether they have fallen behind in their classes or are having an issue with their friends. With your help, they can come through these tough circumstances with new tools in how to deal with conflict resolution, or a new resolution to stop procrastinating. However, many teens struggle to take the step to approach their parents.
Instead of waiting for your teen to come to you—which may take more time than is healthy—parents can proactively let their teens know that they are here to help.
“I Was Wrong”
It takes a lot of strength to admit to being wrong, especially when it comes to personal relationships. Yet, no parent is perfect, and at some point, your teen is going to notice that you don’t have everything right. It’s okay to be wrong. What’s not okay is refusing to admit being in the wrong.
By saying to your teen, “I was wrong,” when you have been incorrect, you can model to your teen this tough lesson, helping them learn what real emotional maturity looks like. If your teenager sees that you can admit to being wrong, they can also come clean with you about wrong, so you can both be wrong—and right—together.
“That Is How Things Work”
While we aren’t endorsing defeatism, there are sometimes where teens need to understand that the answer to some of their frustrations is “that’s how things work.”
For instance, say your teen is doing math homework and got marks taken off last time for not showing their work. While your teen may know how to complete the problem without showing their work, if that is what the teacher expects, your teen needs to learn how to comply.
There will be many instances where what is expected doesn’t make the most sense. But your teen needs to learn in a safe environment that sometimes, compliance is better than sticking to their guns, especially when the quandary isn’t a question of morality or legality.
“I Love You”
Some parents are more comfortable with expressing their love in their actions. While it is important to express love with our actions, your teen can significantly benefit from you saying you love them unconditionally. Teenagers aren’t the best at picking up or giving subtle cues, so being forthright with your love of your kid is essential to help your teen feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
For teenagers who are struggling beyond the point where your resources are exhausted, and you are interested in programs designed for troubled teens, you can always contact us.
We are parent advocates, and we take pride in helping parents find the right solution to help their teenagers overcome their struggles and rejoin their families. So, reach out to us today, and see if we can help connect you with resources to help your struggling teen.
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