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FOUR Fs to TEENSPEAK

May 22, 2013

All good counselors and therapists learn early on, possibly the most valuable skill they can develop, is to meet their clients where they are. Active listening skills are necessary in order to effectively communicate with everybody, but none more so, than with teenagers.

Ask anybody who deals with teens, or for that matter, anybody who ever WAS one, and they will quickly confirm; teenagers live in a world all their own. Teens are leaving one world and preparing to enter another. They are attempting to span the distance between childhood and adulthood. And it is highly unlikely they trust anyone other than one of their own.

FOUR F’s to TEENSPEAK:

Arguing Dad and Son

Arguing Dad and Son

Framework: Patience is paramount! Adults and teenagers almost always see the world very differently. A new pimple can be as major of a deal to a teenager as scheduling surgery is for an adult. And in order to communicate effectively, we have to find a common ground.

What we don’t have to do, interestingly enough, is agree. It really is perfectly okay to maintain different points of view. We must, however, learn to accept these differences. In effective communication all participants remain respectful and appreciative of and see the value in other people’s feelings. This holds true more so with teenagers, who may not know how to express it, but who desperately need to have their conflicting and changing feelings validated.

Fairness: Teens rarely believe adults are fair. This premise feeds and fuels mistrust. And mistrust causes breakdowns in communication. Expectations and instructions need to be extremely specific, clear and direct.

Tuned Out Teen

Tuned Out Teen

When talking with your teenager, you can rest assured, “I want this room cleaned,” will not produce the same results as “your bed needs to be made, your clothes need to be hung up and put into dresser drawers, and dirty clothes need to be in the wash before you go out with your friends.” The goal is to help your teen increase the number of successes he or she achieves and when we communicate our needs and wants precisely, we clear up confusion that could easily result in failure for them and frustration for us.

Freedom: Freedom ties in directly to a teen’s need for independence. The more choices and options we provide, the more we speak their language. By presenting cause and effect scenarios and clarifying consequences up front, we are highlighting what our teen has control over.

Feeling more in control, leads to more feelings of self worth. Which do you believe would produce the most positive end result: providing a choice of not studying for a test and accepting the consequence of an earlier bedtime for a week if they don’t pass; or reminding them to study each and every night? And, by the way, as long as we name the consequence for a poor grade up front, we are being perfectly fair when we follow-through with it.

Feel Good Financials: We all love being applauded and praised when we do the right thing. But many parents make the mistake of believing rewards have to be financial. It is very easy to fall into this way of thinking in our materialistic world, filled with designer clothes and high-cost electronics.

Mom & Teen Agreeing

Mom & Teen Agreeing

Praise has no financial value attached to it. It doesn’t even have to be spoken aloud. It may consist of something as small as a nod or a smile that says ‘high 5’ for making a good choice, and it goes an unbelievably long way with teens. Their position between being a child and becoming an adult puts them in a place where they need positive reinforcement more than ever.

It is up to us to find a way to reach our young people, to convey the most important message, the message of love. If we get that message across, we have done our job!

ABOUT ME

I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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