This seems simple, but it’s not.
Sure, you were a teen so it’s not unfamiliar territory – the relationship drama of who said what to whom, the mean teacher who gives too much homework and doesn’t care if you had a rough day and having to be ‘social media perfect’ every moment to avoid judgement and criticism that reveals insecurities to those who think they know you. The generation gap widens when you think you know what it’s currently like for your teen.
Your teen only knows and sees what’s true now, even though you have the seasoned perspective to look back with less reactivity. So why is sharing that with your teen is the beginning of the unravelling?
Sharing your perspective in an attempt to provide context feels invalidating because you’re imagining their experience as you would have experienced it, or as you see it looking back. Your teen feels made wrong and hurt as their intelligence to effectively assess a situation is questioned.
“You don’t understand!”
With that, they storm off to their room feeling more alone with their overwhelming feelings.
The teen brain is developing complex emotions and thought patterns which makes their experience of life more heightened and difficult to process. Labelling your teen as oversensitive, dramatic or attention seeking because they’re having an experience you don’t understand is unfair and critical.
Your sage wisdom is important, only after your teen feels heard and is ready. Before you dive in, ask yourself if you’re trying to be right or simply offer your perspective.
Empathy isn’t about agreeing with anyone.
The best and simplest emotional support involves listening without judgement or agenda to fix or rescue. Listening IS the solution.
Watch the full video here
Listening is balm for the spirit.
Trying to rescue or fix, or be right about your perspective isn’t listening. Those are about you creating what you need to feel safe or smart. Listening with empathy is like walking carefully into your teen’s emotional space so they feel less alone in their experience.
Connection feels hard when you’re already emotionally exhausted. 2021 was hard and felt hopeless with endless moving targets and no end in sight. Pandemic fatigue is a real thing with early studies showing the impact on our brains – foggy, situation depression, numbness, increased stress and anxiety and more.
Worse yet, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry declared a state of emergency for youth on November 7th because of the escalating mental health crisis due to physical isolation, ongoing uncertainty, fear and grief.
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