It’s virtually impossible to raise a teenager without talking about emotional, social and hormonal changes. These expanding changes can make teens feel anxious about life. They can also be self-conscious about their looks. They can experience moodiness. Such feelings might create friction, even in the happiest families. For parents, it may sometimes feel like they could use the skills of a professional negotiator just to have a civil conversation with their teenage kids.

Active listening and “tactical empathy” can help reduce conflict and lead to productive problem-solving. Parents who pay attention, ask questions and commit to empathy can learn why a teen’s actions make sense to them. This speech style shows respect and helps teens feel safe, seen and significant. Talking it out rather than giving advice may help guide teens to better decision-making.

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How to connect, support and empathize with teens

The teen years transform children’s minds and bodies into those of young adults. Adolescence is a time of acquiring more freedoms and taking on more duties. It’s a time when teens begin to form unique identities separate from their parents.

Teladoc Health Medical Psychologist Dr. Mary Chappell understands adolescence. She says this time can create minefields between parents and teenagers. But she says it’s never too early to teach teens how to master their emotions. Parents can help by taking these actions:

  • To establish a connection with your child, keep your parenting role low-key. Don’t helicopter by staying front and center.
  • You can support teenagers by actively listening to them rather than talking. When parents listen carefully to a teen’s words, it can be easier to figure out what their teen isn’t saying. This can encourage tight-lipped kids to open up.
  • Show empathy to your teenage child. Tell them, “I am here for you,” and “I want to be here for you.” Empathic parents reveal their concern about a teen’s negative emotions. Such behavior can decrease drama.

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How parents can prepare teens to take control

Dr. Chappell says parents can teach teens a big lesson: They’re at the wheel of their journey. She says, “Teens need to understand they have the power to take control of their behavior.”

Parents and teens can work together to communicate without tension. Healthy communication is a process. This process teaches parents and teenagers to respect each other. Mutual respect helps everyone feel they can speak more openly.

Have a lot on your mind? Learn how to manage your mental load.

Published August 10, 2023


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