Alyce Galea. Psychologist
Talking with a highly emotional teenager can be tough! When our emotions are heightened, our ability to access and use the thinking part of our brain can become really difficult, and it can be almost impossible for us to use rational thought.
Here are some tips on how best to communicate with your teen when they are in an emotional state:
1. Remain calm and check in with yourself.
There is very little benefit to trying to communicate with your teen when they are in a heightened state, and the same goes for when you are experiencing big emotions.The most helpful thing you can do in this situation is to check in with yourself and try to remain calm as best you can.
If your teens can sense your calm, they are more likely to calm themselves and be in a better position to effectively communicate with you. There is a scientific principle called neuroception that helps us understand this - when we are in the presence of a calm person, our brain picks up on those calming signals and our brain understands that we are safe. Being safe leads to feelings of calm.
2. Be present.
Although your teen may not want to have a conversation with you, it’s important that they know that you are there for them and available to talk when they are ready. That gesture alone might be enough for them to trust that you are open and willing to hear them out.
3. Take a strengths based, non judgemental approach.
Although you might not agree with how your teens behave, or how they should feel in a response to a certain situation, it’s helpful to provide a safe, non judgemental space for them to vent and talk it out.
4. Offer to listen and comfort, rather than “fix” things.
Your job is not to fix things, per se, but to coach your children, offer the support they need and encourage them to practice skills of emotion regulation and problem solving, until they find what works for them. The way we problem solve and deal with our emotions, may not be particularly helpful for our teens.
It’s important to remember that when we come to the solution for a problem ourselves, often with support from another person, we’re more likely to be able to make sense of the problem solutions and put them into practice - rather than when somebody imposes their solutions on us.
5. Expect rejection and avoid feeling disheartened.
Adjust your expectations about how the conversations might go, so that you can avoid feeling disheartened or taking things personally. Your teen might test you a little until they can trust that you genuinely care and want to help them. It may take some time and persistence to reconnect with your teen, don’t be put off. If you’re willing to make the changes to better communicate with them, they will come through.
I hope this has given you some helpful tips to be able to alter the way you communicate with your teens to build a stronger connection with them.
Contact the clinic if you are in need of parenting support or support for your teen