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Why Parents struggle to TALK to Teens

Last updated on: November 03, 2020 12:00 IST
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Be fearless and talk about how it bothers you when they return late or are stuck on their phones.
Tell them clearly how concerned you are.
This helps them to know that you don't sit on a throne dictating terms, but are willing to be by their side and look at their problems with them, says Anu Krishna.

'The basic need of feeling loved is all that they seek at this challenging time of growing up. So be with them and feel what they feel.' Photograph: Kind courtesy

"She is totally disrespectful and talks back at me..."

"He is holed up in his room all day with his phone and hardly is with the family..."

"All they want is money and flaunt brand wear in front of their friends..."

"He is in the wrong company of friends and possibly has started to experiment with smoking..."

"She's on the phone all day and maybe it’s only with boys..."

I am sure these are not new thoughts that I have drawn your attention to.

Every parent in this New Digital age is finding it seemingly complex to parent a teen wanting to throw their hands up in the air every time they watch their teen roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders and look away while you 'try' talking to them.

So why do you 'try'? Isn't talking to another person the most natural thing as social creatures that we have learned the first time we learned to talk?

Then why are you struggling to talk to your own child who has been raised by you with your core values and someone who has felt your warmth since he/she came into this world?


You struggle because, first you 'try' and second, you, 'talk'!


That's how it was for a parent who walked into a session with me where as a mother she was flustered that she couldn't get through to her 16-year-old daughter.

The teen, fresh into the world of make-up and feeling the natural sway towards the opposite gender, irked the mother where they would be at each other's throats.

I told the mother, "Why try when you can simply just be? Why talk when you can simply communicate?"

Those are the key words: Just Be and Communicate

As parents, you know what you want is exactly what the child wants; a warm loving environment for them to wade through the challenges of growing up, creating an identity for themselves in this world, making their presence in social circles.

Not to mention the heart wrenching confusions they face -- what's right and what's not and understanding changes in their physical appearance that has begun to draw attention from the external world.

Now, who is it confusing for? You as a parent or them as a teen who are facing it all for the first time?

Just like the 16 year old who sat in front of me with her mother, her eyes staring at the vacant floor, defying the rules that she perceived existed in that room.

All I said to her is, "I hear you, what do you want to share?"

That broke the deafening silence and she whispered looking at her mother, "Tell her to stop cornering me."

I asked, "What makes you feel cornered?"

She said, "What do you call it when she rummages through my things, stalks me on social media, checks my phone when I leave it lying around accidentally, comments on the choice of clothes, displays open displeasure over my friends's gang... do you want me to go on?"

The mother was squirming and eager to jump in and defend her actions and I motioned for her to stay still.

I asked the girl, "And this makes you feel cornered?"

She replied, "Not just cornered but also that she doesn't trust me or anything that I do!"

Ring a bell?

This is something that runs in connections between a parent and a teenage child in most homes, practically where the arguments get fierce and reaches a dead end with neither party willing to relent and be the bigger person.

Let me tell you, it's time as parents, you take a shot at being the bigger person as you have gone through your teen challenges once before with yourself, so you know that it was a tough deal.

Oh yes, I know you listened to your parents and never defied them and all of that.

Generations, my dear people, is different.

Possibly as I see it with my work with teens, that they are thrown into this wide world of uncertainties that is digitally advanced, thrives on external validation and seeks instant gratification to get through the day.

Likes and Comments on Facebook and Instagram snippet videos is what they compete with.

All you had to do when you were that age was perhaps search for broken marbles and get into street fights with a friend only to know that the same friend always had your back.

That's not how it is for the teen of today.

The social construct is unreal and very material in nature. There is little room for them to form thick bonds with their friends or come back home after school/college to a simple home cooked meal that they can enjoy without having to click a picture of every instance and post it on social media.

Not to mention all the beauty regimen and weight management programs that lure them, they feel defenceless and abandoned.

And the last nail in the coffin is you breathing down their neck asking them to justify: Why and Why Not?

So, I asked the mother, "Why not put yourself in your daughter's shoes just once and feel what she is feeling? Why does it seem that there is one way to talk rather than think that there are many ways to communicate?"

The Why and Why Not helped shift the stance to a point that they were facing one another.

The point of intervention was right there when I made them look into each other's eyes so that they could connect first and then communicate with each other.

The fondness and love were always there, it was just lying dead in the pool of ego clashes. You heard me right. A parent displays as much ego as the child does as a point of an argument hits a crescendo.

You know that the child in front of you is dearer than anything else and that you would do just about anything for them.

Then start right now...

By not talking down to them, but talk to them.

And when you talk to them, you begin to communicate.

Be fearlessly vulnerable and talk about how it bothers you when they return late or are stuck on their phones, tell them clearly how concerned you are.

This vulnerability helps them to know that you don't sit on a throne dictating terms, but are willing to be by their side and look at their problems with them.

I asked the mother and daughter to come closer and together watch the daughter's challenges in front of them, like a movie.

When your teens know that you are with them, they feel safe, protected. And that's the job you know better than fussing over which Ivy League to send them to!

The basic need of feeling loved, is all that they seek at this challenging time of growing up. So be with them and feel what they feel.

I could feel the duo in front of me sync their love energies and the Mom remarked, "I know this is just the beginning, but I know that a huge wall has come crashing down..."

The girl smiled and body language had softened.

Many sessions later they came to point where they allowed each other's opinions to be heard at family hours and oh yes, the mother knew why a blush-on was an important part of her daughter's make up set.

We simply let our children flower in our love, that's who we are as parents. We simply tell them:

"No matter what, we are in this together..."
"No matter what happens, I am here for you..."
"No matter what bothers you, you can talk to me...""

And lastly, "I trust you and I love you for who you are...""

Anu Krishna is a Mind Coach, NLP Trainer, Zen Lifestyle Expert and has recently released her book The Secret of Life – Decoding Happiness.
She is also the Founder of Soulful Exploration LLP and Unfear Changemakers LLP.

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