Talking With Teens
Tips for Better Communication
Parents and teens can bridge the communication gap with a little patience and a healthy measure of
Here are 6 tips for parents and 6 for teenagers.
A parent’s view of speech development: it begins in infancy, blossoms in childhood, and stops dead in its tracks at adolescence.
A teenager’s view of speech development: “My parents don’t understand a word I’m saying.”
You don’t need a degree in communications to know that parents and teenagers seem to spend more time talking at and past one another than to or with one another. Chalk it up to different agendas, the stress of daily life, or familiarity breeding contempt. Whatever the reason, adolescents and their folks are as good at making conversation as the construction crew at the Tower of Babel.
But with a little give and take, a lot of patience, and a healthy measure of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, parents and teens may be able to remove the roadblocks hindering two-way communication.
To help understand talking with teens, WebMD interviewed two experts in adolescent development: Laurence Steinberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia; and Carol Maxym, PhD, who counsels families in Honolulu and Washington, D.C.
First, says Steinberg, parents need to recognize that “although your child doesn’t have the same level of knowledge, information, wisdom or experience as you do, he or she has essentially the same logical tools and can see through logical fallacies and lapses in what’s sensible.”
In other words, the “do-it-because-I-said-so” approach to talking with teens doesn’t work anymore. “They can’t be bullied around by power-assertive statements by parents that aren’t based on any kind of logical reality,” Steinberg says.
Teenagers have exquisitely sensitive B.S. detectors, agrees Maxym, who counsels families of troubled adolescents in private practice. “Parents need to be emotionally authentic. Don’t try to act as though you are angry when you’re really not. Don’t try to tell your child ‘I’m really hurt when you don’t go to school,’ when what you really are is angry. Kids know their parents really well and pick up on it, and as soon as you as a parent become inauthentic, you’ve lost any chance of real communication,” says Maxym.
Research also shows that “the big barrier is in how parents and teenagers define issues,” If the parent sees a teen’s messy room as a moral issue, and the teen sees it as a matter of choice, they may never reach a mutually satisfactory solution, says Steinberg.
What can you do to communicate better? Our experts offer these tips both parents and teenagers:
Don’t lecture your teen, have a conversation. When parents complain “my teenager doesn’t want to talk to me,” what they’re really complaining about is “my teenager doesn’t want to listen to me.” Conversation involves at least two people, Steinberg emphasizes.
Don’t attack. “The conversation between any two people will break down if one of the two is put on the defensive and made to feel he’s being accused of something,” says Steinberg.
Show respect for your teen’s opinions. Teenagers can be surprisingly easy to talk with if the parents make it clear that they’re listening to the teen’s point of view.
Keep it short and simple. Maxym urges parents to remember what she calls the “50% rule”: “Almost every parent says at least 50% more than he or she should. Shut up. Remember when you were a teen and your parents lectured at you? And you thought, ‘Will you please stop; I already got the point!’ Stop before your teen gets there.”
Be yourself. Don’t try to talk like your kids or their friends. “You’re an adult, so be an adult,” Maxym says.
Seize the moment. A spontaneous conversation in the car or at home late at night — any time when you’re not rushed — can make for some of the warmest, most rewarding moments, Steinberg says. “I think for parents, one of the key parts of having good communication with kids is being around enough to capitalize on these moments that invariably don’t come up when you expect them to.”
Try to understand the situation from your parents’ point of view. If your goal is to be allowed to stay out later on Saturday night, for example, try to anticipate what they are concerned about, such as your safety and your whereabouts.Address their concerns honestly and directly.
Try saying something like, “If I am allowed to stay out later, I will tell you in advance where I’m going to be so you know how to reach me,” or “I’ll call you to let you know what time I’m going to be home, and that way you won’t have to worry about it.”
Don’t go on the defensive. If you feel deeply about the subject of the conversation — clothes, friends, politics, sex, drugs, whatever — stick to your guns, but listen to what your parents have to say.
Don’t criticize or ridicule their viewpoints. Show them and their opinions the respect you want them to give you.
Make requests. Don’t issue a list of demands.
Make “I” statements. Explain your concerns by saying things such as “I feel you’re not being fair.” Or, “I feel like you’re not listening to my side.” Avoid “you” statements, such as “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
For My Older Children
SIBLINGS OF AN ADDICT: SEPARATE, SAVE OR STRUGGLE
While many people accept that the whole family is impacted when a young adult struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, most of the resources available are geared towards parents. There is very little discussion about the effect of addiction on siblings, even though they are part of the family system, often know more about the extent of the problem than their parents and often struggle emotionally brothers and sisters of addicts have a range of reactions; three common styles of managing the anxiety associated with this issue are listed below:
Separate: Some siblings withdraw completely when a brother or sister develops a pattern of addictive behaviors for a variety of reasons For example; they may not be able to cope with the turmoil in their sibling’s life or may experience guilt that they don’t have the same genetic predisposition. Siblings may not understand what the addict is facing, or they may want to avoid having to examine their own relationships with substances. This group of siblings avoids talking about the issue, ignores calls or overtures from the addict, and may even remain distant from the whole family system to reduce the chances of being forced to address the topic. One brother described the impact of his sibling’s addiction as having taken all of the “air in the room,” leaving no space for him to talk about his own life challenges. He indicated that this feeling had caused him to avoid any family situations where he suspected the addict would be there and/or the topic of conversation.
Save: Other siblings rush into the problem, convinced they can save their brother or sister from themselves. They try to help the addict with behavior ranging from finding treatment resources to giving the addict money, food, or a place to stay. They often become a support to parents, particularly during a crisis, and may even put themselves in peril by rescuing their sibling unsafe situations. They feel immense sadness and compassion towards their addict sibling, and frequently deny or ignore their sibling’s destructive behaviors (i.e. lying, stealing, manipulation). This group of siblings may temporarily get frustrated with the addict, but their grudges are short-lived, and after a brief period of time, often return to rescuing the addict.
Struggle: The final group includes siblings who struggle with the addict’s behaviors. They express frustration that the addict “can’t get it together” or “just stop using”. They confront their siblings, often using emotional pleas. A common example is “Don’t you see what you are doing to mom?” or “You are destroying our family.” They may not accept that addiction is a disease, but instead view their sibling’s actions as selfish or immoral. At times, they may get angry if someone tries to defend the addict or rescue him or her. Even if a sibling decides to get help, they may even struggle to accept their sibling’s commitment to sobriety.
Siblings can often feel caught in the middle, between the addict and their parents. They play a variety of roles, often vacillating between more than one style listed above. If you are a sibling of an addict, please recognize that this affects you too, and make sure to find your own sources of support. Ala-non, a family program offered across the country (http://al-anon.alateen.org)/ or a professional counselor may help you find some peace during turbulent times.
January 21, 2014 | Arden O’Connor | Arden O’Connor graduated from Harvard College and started a non-profit called Rediscovery Inc., dedicated to serving adolescents transitioning out of the foster care system (www.rediscoveryhouse.org).
Your Father & I are so proud of each one of you.
As I read, about siblings of the addicted. I have come to an understanding, that this has not only, effected our Family. You have had the responsibility of dealing with this issue. And I am sure that, there are still feelings that you have inside.
I know that it was hard.
Having to move away from all of you has made it sad for me and Daddy. We are such a close family. You are missed everyday. When I speak with you, I am also Hugging you.
Our conversations always were about, your Brother. You were all so concerned, extremely worried and struggled with his problem. But all of you handled yourselves with dignity.
For that we are very proud! You are so important in our lives. All of you took part in helping your, Brother. I believe, your conversations on the phone. While he was in Rehab, gave him the authority to fight with all of his being, to win this battle. Your words were imbedded in his mind.
“Go the distance Brother, you can do it!”
He takes such pride in knowing that you are by his side. Your lives have been full of up’s and downs. There were times when you also made mistakes. But we all came together to figure it out.
Each and every one of you have the focus to go after your dreams and fulfill your future. Now your Brother, is right beside you.
Working hard on his future, while thanking,
“The Good Lord for making it all possible.”
As a little boy you taught him so many things. He would look at you. Listen to you and learn. When he fell you picked him up. If he cried you made him feel better. And when he was in trouble he ran to every one of you first. Before coming to Me & Daddy. The Love that all of you have for one and other is so heart warming to me. “As your Mother, I am truly Blessed and so Content, knowing that right now. At this time all of you are focused on the same goal.
“Having a happy productive life.
And Living, Life to the Fullest.”
I am so delighted that all of you found perfect partners. I am a very lucky Mother In-law. They are all family orientated. Each one having a great family, that all believes as we do. Family is everything, it is Home. The love that has been shared with each of them is truly a Blessing. Their compassion and understanding has, shown me that, they are all special people. I am so Proud to call them, “My Children.” They stood by each one of you. Showing me their concern. They were always positive about your Brother. Telling us that he was going to make it. Made us feel the same way.
I remember an occasion, when we came to N.Y. to visit. Your Brother, was with us. He was in Rehab at this time, all of you welcomed him with open arms. I could see in his eyes that he was frightened of how you would all greet him. And then when you all held out your arms and welcomed him with laughter and hugs. It truly made a big difference, in his life. He was home with you again. Feelings that he missed, for such a long time were rekindled. The feeling of acceptance, put him right where he was supposed to be.
With his Brother and Sister’s and their Spouses. Together Again. I know he longed for this reunion.
All of you made it so special for, Your Brother.
He works hard everyday on his Recovery. He is extremely focused and making plans for his future.
All of you have taken part in each others lives. Making a real difference, needing one and other.
Your Father & I are so proud of all of you.
Remember I Love All of You, More Than All The Stars In The
Long-Term Effects Of Bullying: Pain Lasts Into Adulthood
Kids don’t easily outgrow the pain of bullying, according to a new study that finds that people bullied as kids are less mentally healthy as adults.
The study is one of the first to establish long-term effects of childhood bullying, which is still often considered a typical part of growing up.
“To my surprise at least, there were some very strong long-term effects on their risk for depression, anxiety, suicidality, a whole host of outcomes that we know just wreak havoc on adult lives,” said study researcher William Copeland, a clinical psychologist at Duke University Medical Center.
How bullying hurts
Previous studies have found that both bullies and their victims are at higher risk for mental health problems and other struggles in childhood. One study, presented in 2010 at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, found that bullies were at higher risk of substance abuse, depression, anxiety and hostility than non-bullies.
For bully victims, being targeted can result in increased suicide risk, depression, poor school performance and low self-esteem. But most studies on the effects of bullying focus on the childhood period.
“The question for our study is what happens long-term, down the road, after they’re no longer being bullied and after they’re no longer children,” Copeland told LiveScience. [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]
Copeland and his colleagues used data from a study begun 20 years ago, which queried 1,420 children and their parents about general mental health beginning ate age 9, 11 or 13. The kids were assessed annually until age 16, and then they came back for follow-ups at ages 19, 21 and 25.
Before age 16, participants were asked whether they had been bullied or bullied others, how frequently, and where any bullying occurred, among other questions.
Using this data, the researchers divided the kids into four groups: kids uninvolved in bullying; pure victims who were bullied but did not bully others; pure bullies who were never victimized themselves; and “bully/victims,” a group of kids who both bullied and were bullied.
Five percent of the kids, or 112, were bullies only, and 21.6 percent, or 335 kids, were pure victims. Another 4.5 percent were bully/victims. The rest were neither.
The researchers then looked at the mental health outcomes of each group in young adulthood, controlling for childhood factors such as pre-existing mental health conditions, struggles with home life and childhood anxiety levels.
They found that any involvement in bullying boded poorly in adulthood. Pure bullies did not show problems with emotional functioning as adults, Copeland said, which is unsurprising given that they had all the power in their childhood relationships. But they did show increased risk of developing antisocial personality disorder. People with this disorder have little empathy and few scruples about manipulating others for their own gain. The disorder is linked with a greater risk of becoming a criminal. Most bullies did not go on to have the disorder, Copeland said, but they were more likely to develop it than other groups.
Pure victims, on the other hand, were at higher risk for depression, anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia than kids uninvolved in bullying, the researchers found. Worst off were the bully/victims, who were at higher risk of every depressive and anxiety disorder in the book. [5 Ways to Foster Self-Compassion in Your Child]
For example, pure victims were four times as likely to develop an anxiety disorder in adulthood compared with kids who were uninvolved in bullying. Bully/victims had a five-times greater risk of depression than uninvolved kids, as well as 10 times the likelihood of suicidal thoughts or actions and 15 times the likelihood of developing a panic disorder.
“By far, being a bully and a victim meant having the worst long-term outcomes,” Copeland said.
Because they were able to take childhood mental health into account, the researchers are confident that the adult mental health struggles are an effect of the bullying, not pre-existing conditions that made them vulnerable to bullies in the first place.
While it’s not yet clear why bullying might have such a long-term effect, it’s possible that torment at school is not so dissimilar to maltreatment or abuse in the home, Copeland said. Kids spend a lot of time at school and surrounded by peers, he said, so it’s not surprising that troubles there could have long-lasting consequences.
“More and more, I’m coming to the mindset that what happens to kids when they’re with other kids, their peers, is as important, or maybe more important, than what happens at home,” he said.
The next step, Copeland said, is to investigate what makes some bullied kids more resilient and able to bounce back in adulthood than others. The researchers report their results online today (Feb. 20) in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
By: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer