Seen But Not Heard: Teen Counseling.
“But, you’re not listening!”
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel (Maya Angelou).” This is especially true for today’s teens who are bombarded with negative messages. Emotional connection is essential and necessary for teens. Parents, however, often neglect this aspect of parenting to focus on behavior alone. In an article by Focus On The Family, Six Ways to Build Your Teens Identity, Tiffany Stuart states, “Teens yearn for our support and relationship. It’s important to affirm their natural abilities, be their cheerleaders, attend activities even if they say, no biggie (Stuart, 2015, para. 1).” As these, “natural abilities,” or gifts, are validated a teen will feel value. Value is at the core of connecting with a teen. As value is communicated, teens begin to trust and share their struggles, which is where solid headway can be established.
Most of us have experienced the discomfort of talking to someone only to find they really weren’t listening. For the teen, this is a critical component to effective and lasting relationship. In their terms, it is a deal breaker. In fact, hearing that parents don’t listen to them is a major topic brought into counseling. The art of listening establishes value and affirms who they are, and what is important to them is worth being heard. Being intentional about hearing them, while leaving criticism and judgment out is critical. Finding value in their concerns, their fears, and their struggles can be accomplished by using non-judgmental feedback by replacing it with empathy. This will show your teen that you are choosing to emotionally connect with what is important to them.
Controlling Parental Patterns
This is not so easy for the parent whose main objective is to “get” their teen to be what they want them to be. This type of control usually manifests a very toxic type of parenting. Control sends the opposite message of value. It says who you are, and who God has wired you to be is not approved of and acceptable.
A case study: An 18 year old female college student whose father insists that she study engineering and promptly enrolls her in one of the top engineering programs in the nation. She robotically goes through the school and begins to experience depression. She feels trapped, unheard and she hasn’t been allowed to explore how God has wired her for his plan for her life. A friend introduces her to photography and she begins to flourish. Mid-way through her engineering program she is afraid to confront her father and tell him she wants to change majors to photo journalism. Her depression increases and she begins a cycle of destructive behaviors.
Issues Teens Face
Teens face so many pressures and typical issues that they deal with are low self-esteem, bullying, social pressures, academics, and fear and anxiety. Signs of a serious nature would include isolation, cutting, severe depressive states, and substance abuse. Most teens find it difficult to trust people for the more serious conversations. An important question is who is it in your teen’s life that is making an impact? Why not be the someone who does?
An Investment worth Your Time
Instilling the gift of value, listening and avoiding controlling patterns will provide a solid in road for a heart connection with your teen. “The opposite of feeling connected is the feeling of abandonment. The teen who feels abandoned will have emotional struggles (Chapman, 2014).”
This article was written by Crossroads therapist Dawna Snider MA, LAC. As a mother who has successfully raised two teenagers and who served as youth leader in her church she is passionate about helping teens and parents. You can hear her radio interview on the Connected Life where she talks about teens, parenting, and teen counseling services at Crossroads by clicking below. You may also visit our teen counseling page by clicking here.
Teen Counseling interview with therapist Dawna Snider MA, LAC. “Seen but Not Heard: Teen Counseling” is an article written by Dawna Snider MA, LAC.