As teen parents, we spend most of our time feeling unwanted and under-appreciated.
While they’re still happy for us to do their laundry and cook their meals, the vast majority of teens will spend more than their fair share of time telling you that they don’t need you, that they’re ready to go it alone or that they can cope ok.
Until, that is, they’re on the cusp of a major change. Whether they’re facing exams, study trips, or the first day of college, the fear and stress are guaranteed to drive them to your door. After all, no matter how old they get, you’re still their go-to comfort.
The only trouble is that, as soon as you get your motivational head-on, your teen is quite likely to roll their eyes and slip back into ‘you’re so uncool’ mode. So, in those key moments, how exactly can you give a pep talk that your teen actually listens to?
Don’t make it about you
There’s nothing worse than parents starting a chat with the words ‘when I was your age…’ For one thing, in your teen’s eyes, you were NEVER a teenager, and shouldn’t allude to such madness. For another, this is a sure way to get them to switch off as you enter boring story mode.
Instead, it’s vital to remember that this moment isn’t about you. Even if you have an anecdote that would help, find ways to frame it so that it sounds applicable to your child, rather than just being another way that you can (in their eyes) steal their limelight.
Talk them through, rather than out of their feelings
The sense that parents invalidate teen feelings is one of the main causes for parent-teen arguments, and it’s something that you definitely need to avoid here.
Rather than invalidating or talking them out of those feelings with statements like ‘you’ll be fine,’ you need to give those feelings/fears a platform, and instead help your teen to find a way through them. For instance, if they’re afraid of starting college, something along the lines of ‘I understand you’re afraid. What’s worrying you the most?’ gives voice to what they’re feeling, and also encourages them to work through their own emotions in a way that puts them back in the driver’s seat.
Stick to solicited advice
Even if you give some smart advice that seems to help in the moment, it’s also vital to know when to stop. Namely, you should never start offering advice that your teen didn’t ask for. This will see them shutting faster than your favorite store at closing time, and it may even brush your previously good advice under the carpet. Even if you have more to say and it somehow relates to the matter at hand, keep that mouth shut, and talk only about the topics that your teen raises in the moment.
In many ways, teens are the toughest audience of all where pep talks are concerned. But, whatever your parenting style, you should find that sticking to these steps sees them listening at long last.