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HOW TO USE CRISIS TO CONNECT MORE DEEPLY WITH YOUR ADOLESCENT

The role of the home in developing personal identity

Written byTBOG

Workplace Emotions Consultant | Family Wellness Instructor | Certified Physiologist| Developmental and Social Psychologist | Managing Partner TSAGEandTBOG Consult | Cherie Blair Foundation Mentee Alumna | CoFounder Remake Africa

May 27, 2022

 “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 

― Brene Brown 

 

You may know that the word crisis originates from the Greek word ‘krisis’ – which means ‘decisive moment’. Crises can, therefore, be seen as an opportunity to either break the communication lines between you and your teenager or strengthen them effectively depending on what decisions you make in that “decisive moment”. Having open lines of communication is what keeps crises from developing into full-blown disasters because, in every home, a crisis or two must occur, but we need to remember that every crisis with your adolescent is also an opportunity further strengthen your relationship. 

Life is full of ups and downs and as our children mature, they discover painfully that good things will not happen to them simply because they are good. It is why we encourage every parent to raise emotionally resilient teenagers. When these crises situations occur, we must have tough conversations with our children, especially adolescents, whether that’s explaining to your teenager why Grandma died or hearing from your twelve-year-old that she was body-shamed in class or having your sixteen-year-old fall apart on the night before his big speech. Whatever the case, when crises occur, the appropriate response is not to shy away from it and pretend it never happened.

Some years ago while counselling a teenage boy, he felt that his mom never really loved his late dad. When I asked why he thought so, he said, “mom never talks about dad. She wasn’t even the one who told me that he died. She doesn’t cry about him. It’s almost as if she has totally erased his existence from her life and moved on”. Of course, I knew this was not true because I had had a prior conversation with his mom where she broke down in tears saying that she could not continue her life without her husband but had to keep going becaue of their son. She wrongly assumed that ignoring that crises would be beneficial to both parties. Eventually, she spoke to her son about it. He got to see his mom very vulnerable with him and they had an intimate bonding process. Both mom and son are doing fine now and they are literally best of friends since all they’ve got is eah other.

As parents, we have been conditioned to always show our strengths while masking our vulnerabilities. If you have taken our course, Engaging The World Of Adolescence, you would have discovered that vulnerability is strength masquerading as weakness and you would have understood how to wield that strength. This article, however, is to [for the benefit of those who haven’t taken the course] show how we can as parents use crises moments to our advantage in order to strengthen the bond between ourselves and our adolescents. Avoiding crises or wishing them away is very destructive not just based on our unconventional parenting guidelines but also from research-based and parent-based feedback. Emotions always need an outlet and  if you don’t give them room to be expresses in a conducive manner, they will come back with a vengeace that cannot be quantified. Crises situations actually give you a chance to connect more deeply with your child, to teach them how to problem-solve with really big problems, and show them how to manage upsetting feelings – a skill they desperately need to learn during adolescence.

How can you help your child in tough conversations? Here are some tips I will share:

  • Listen. Don’t say much, but really pay attention. This creates a psychologically and emotionally safe haven and allows them to know that you value their thoughts. 
  • Empathize. Feel from your child’s perspective. Let him get those feelings out, no matter how upset he is. Remember how you always felt that your parents never truly got you? You don’t want your child feeling this way. 
  • Hold your own awareness that it isn’t the end of the world, even if it feels like it to your adolescent child, but don’t try to talk him out of his upset. Your child needs to learn to own his emotions while developing the adequate skills to find solutions.
  • Problem-Solve. Once your child is less emotional, help him to problem-solve. You can do this by creating scenarios and you both propose possible solutions.

But don’t wait for crises to have the tough conversations you need to have. Think of it as home-schooling, and you’re the teacher. Or therapy, and you’re the therapist. Many parents feel uncomfortable talking with their adolescents about some issues. You owe it to your child to summon up your courage and have those hard talks. And doing so may avoid some the crises. 

Why is it so important to teach your teens and tweens how to have tough conversations? Because close relationships depend on the ability to meet the needs of both people in the relationship and to negotiate the inevitable bumps when those needs conflict. Successfully navigating challenging discussions will bring your family closer, minimize the bumps in your family life, and teach your adolescent a critical life skill – one that’s considerably more important than doing his own laundry. 

Your child’s success throughout life will depend on his ability to navigate difficult interpersonal situations – on his block, at work, in intimate relationships. Adolescents learn how to work things out with other people by doing it. If he learns from you that difficult discussions are to be avoided, he’s more likely to get divorced someday, or be fired. If, on the other hand, he learns from you that people who love each other can disagree but work things out so that both people win, he’s likely to put that skill to use with his peers, in his intimate relationships, and in the rest of his life. 

 

 

Happy Children’s Day fro us all at TSAGE and TBOG Consult

 

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