Tuning Into Teens

Posted: 2nd October 2017

The teenage years are notorious for a breakdown in communication between parents and children. Seemingly overnight, happy and chatty children can stew in silence, throw tantrums, snap sarcastically or appear unwilling to engage with family life at all. So often, an angry or irritable teenager results in an even angrier and more irritable parent – but it doesn’t have to be like that. Research from Bath Spa University has found that one of the most successful ways to improve behaviour and relationships is to improve young people’s social and emotional skills. Antisocial behaviour can be a tool for maintaining distance from parents and others who ‘don’t understand’, as teenagers undergo a powerful metamorphosis to become young adults – with all the hopes, fears, dreams and insecurities that involves. Developing your own emotional intelligence and helping your teenager through emotion coaching can make a significant difference to the life of the whole family. Being emotionally intelligent means that you are able and willing to to look below the surface, at what is actually going on in your son or daughter’s life, and to identify and understand both your own emotions and theirs. In other words – exactly what you are both feeling and why. There are five basic steps involved in developing emotional intelligence. The first is to tune into your teenager’s emotional state with real interest and empathy – and recognise your own. Connect with them, making time to give them your undivided attention. Then we must accept and listen to what they are saying, without being dismissive. Reflect on what is happening with them and finally, once the emotional crisis has passed, look with them at the options they have to resolve the issues they may face – but don’t do it for them. Real connection and authentic communication are everything. Emotional intelligence helps to build a level of insight when solving problems and offers strategies for managing the appropriate expression of strong feelings. Teenagers can also be helped this way in coping with peer pressure and conflict, building emotional resilience and learning to trust their instincts in unfamiliar situations. As a parent, being able to give a measured response – perhaps when you are feeling rejected or overwhelmed by your child’s behaviour – defuses the situation and helps you both to build a stronger and more satisfying relationship. Teenagers still need parenting, but during the teenage years it is time for parents to move from the role of ‘manager’ in their child’s life, to that of ‘consultant’. That way, you can avoid some of the conflicts that come with loss of power, or the bewilderment of disconnection. Young people still need your active involvement in their lives – and they need you to model the emotional intelligence and self-awareness that will strengthen and prepare them for adult life. Lucy a qualified facilitator for the University of Melbourne’s ‘Tuning into Teens’ parenting programme. She is currently working towards an advanced diploma in integrative counselling and is in placement with EHCAP at London Road Clinic. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling Psychotherapy. Bath Spa University and EHCAP, a social enterprise, have been commissioned by Public Health Somerset to provide Mindful Emotion Coaching Training to people working with children and young people in Somerset. 56londonroad.co.uk