Adolescence can be one of the most emotionally turbulent times in a person's life. Hormones, changing responsibilities, the rewiring of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, and difficult social and emotional situations can all take a toll on the emotional wellbeing of even the healthiest teen. In many cases, the more your teen has people they can trust to emotionally open up to in times of trouble, they will be much more able to deal with life stresses. Here is a look at some of different counseling techniques to try with your teen:
Create a Safe Space
One of the most important ways to let a teen open up is to create a space that is safe, private, and gives them your full attention. Family dinner tables have been known to be one of those places. If they are free from distraction and focus on family discussion and togetherness, this will create a guaranteed time and day that they have the family's full attention. If there is an issue of privacy around siblings, then create an atmosphere before and after dinner where you get one on one time. This can be done by assigning regular responsibilities to help cook and help clean each night with one parent, and allows natural conversation to lead to opening up. After dinner walks, basketball games, etc, are another great time to open up on a one-on-one basis.
Even if you don't care that Sally and Jason broke up for the tenth time, and your Madison is playing counselor, don't tune her out. Showing interest and asking questions when things are good will create an atmosphere of trust. If you are short on time, then create a situation where you work together with your teen on some of the household responsibilities. This will free up your time and give you both time to work while completing chores together.
Admit When You're Wrong
Adolescents are master manipulators by design. They are experts on pushing your buttons, because in most cases they have installed those buttons. One of the biggest places where a teen can manipulate you is to call out your shortcomings. If you let pride get the best of you and react in anger, this may serve to create an even bigger wedge between you and your child. The same is true if you overcompensate for the shortcomings they find in you, as you become a tool to exploit instead of a person in their eyes. However, admitting when you're wrong and making certain that they understand that you both must take responsibilities for your actions can keep your teen on a healthy path. In many cases, it also means that they are more forgiving of themselves when they make mistakes as well.