When your teen is struggling, as a parent you feel it. You feel their pain, their struggle, their frustrated. Yet, no matter how well-intentioned, our attempts to help can come off as judgmental, pushy, or even aggressive.
To a teen fighting against their own breakdown of willpower in the tide of addiction, these can make them close the coffin on any attempts of communication for good.
The answer may lie in indirect communication.
What is Indirect Communication?
Indirect communication is defined as acting out what you want to say instead of just saying it. This means facial expressions, gestures, and particular tones of voice. Despite the vagueness of indirect communication and its ability to cause confusion, indirect communication is the norm in some cultures.
How Can Indirect Communication Help?
If being indirect is passive-aggressive and leaves so much to be interpreted by the listener, how can it possibly be helpful when dealing with your teen as they suffer addiction?
Even though a lot of indirect communication is not saying what you mean, it also means more listening, and more question asking. Instead of staring your teen directly in the eye and saying whatever harsh thing you may feel, it lets your teen lead the conversation.
In a moving article written by the parent of an addict, he’s asked “What’s the one thing you wish you had done differently?”
“I would have learned to listen.”
The key to good communication is listening. Not just hearing, but really listening, processing, and understanding what is being said to you. When you’re deep in getting your own point across and trying to get your child to see your way of things, it’s easy to get lost in the noise.
What your teen needs is for you to listen, to understand their struggle as only they can tell it. Only then can you really know what they need to overcome their struggle.
Take the Weight Off
When beating your head against the wall hasn’t produced the results you’re looking for, it may be worth it to try something else. Instead of demanding answers and insisting they sit and listen to you, asking questions. You won’t know how they think or feel unless you ask them. Don’t ask close-ended yes or no questions, leave them open with room for them to explain. And when they explain, listen.
Use language like “maybe” or “possibly.” Allow them to express how they feel and guide the conversation. Their behavior what needs to be done may become clearer.
If unfortunately it seems as though the situation has advanced beyond your ability to help, there are resources to get you through these tough times. Helping a teen through addiction is not an easy thing, no matter how you communicate, but you don’t have to do it alone.