Difficult Topics, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#97 When Your Sad Teen Won’t Open Up

Communicating with teens can be a challenge. And it can only get harder when they are sad, stressed, or grumpy. Maybe they come home and are just furiously texting or maybe they come home and they rush to their room or they hang out in the family area, but they just don’t engage with you, despite your sweet, sincere attempts to figure out what’s wrong. Psychologist Lisa Damour, who wrote Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, has identified 4 reasons why your teenager may not be talking to you when they are upset. In this episode we talk about all 4 of them and what you can do to get your teen to open up to you.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT…

Communicating with teens can be a challenge. And it can only get harder when they are sad, stressed, or grumpy.

Psychologist Lisa Damour, who wrote Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, has identified 4 reasons why your teenager may not be talking to you when they are upset.

1.     They worry you’ll have the wrong reaction.

  • Your kids know you pretty well having studied you and seeing your reactions to their behavior their entire lives. So they may rightly worry that by telling you that they bombed a test that you will react by talking about how that’s unacceptable.

The fix:

  • You have to be able to keep yourself from having exactly that bad reaction.
  • Then, start the conversation by saying, “Are you worried that I’ll have a bad reaction?” This can be a really hard conversation for parents because if this is happening, your kid could tell you exactly what they are worried about happening and they could be totally right and that could really make you feel attacked and you could start getting defensive.
  • By having this conversation that is more about your reactions, you lay the groundwork for later conversations when your teen comes home and will feel more comfortable opening up to you because you will have hopefully figured out how to react in a way that your teen appreciates and that makes your teen feel safe opening up to you.

2.     They anticipate negative repercussions.

  • If they have done something wrong, made a mistake, or maybe one of their friends did something bad, they may worry that telling you will have a negative consequence for them.

The fix:

  • As Lisa says, “there are two rules I live by: good kids do dumb things, and I never have the whole story.”
  • This isn’t to say that there are no consequences, often there need to be consequences. Encourage your kid to take responsibility and think about their actions and do what is right. We all make mistakes and have to learn how to make up for them. This conversation teaches your kid how to start doing that

3.     They know that parents sometimes blab.

  • Especially as kids get older, they start wanting to have more secrets. And so if they realize that you have shared their top secret information with someone else, they may stop telling you those things that they don’t want shared.

The fix:

  • If you have accidentally broken your kids’ trust, the answer is simple: apologize. It may take time for your kid to test you and trust you again, but it’s a good first step.
  • If you are just trying to get ahead of this one, just promise them that what they say at home to you will remain between the two of you (and maybe your co-parent as well). And if there is ever something that is top secret, you could ask that they remind you ahead of time that this is really super private.
  • Let your kids know that if someone is in danger, you will have to tell other adults.

4.     Talking doesn’t feel like the solution.

  • Sometimes kids have already been processing what they’re going through so much that they are just tired of it. They may be so close to getting over whatever it was, they don’t want to rehash it all. They just want to move on quickly.

The fix:

  • Just give some basic comfort – hanging out with them, watching TV, chatting about silly stuff, or quietly snuggling them

Using these “fixes” to help improve your communication can make life smoother for them and for you and really enhance your relationship.

Resource:Damour, L. (2017). “Why your grumpy teenager doesn’t want to talk to you.”The New York Times.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

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Difficult Topics, Easy Action Items, Elementary School, Parent Tips, Parent-Child Communication, School Advice, Social Life, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student Podcast #91: Story Time: Using Stories to Decrease Fears

Getting kids to tell you stories about their day has numerous benefits! Better conversations, better relationships, and kids who feel comfortable coming to you when they need help. If you focus on positive questions, then you also get practice looking for the goods. And if you ask questions that are in line with your family motto, like “How were you kind today?” you show your kid that you value kindness and encourage them to act kind every day. Stories can also help kids develop better memory and it helps them make sense of their experiences, which can help reduce anxiety. But getting kids to open up to you about their day can be tough. Fireborn’s got some tips!

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Ways to get your child to open up about their day:

Change the question you are asking so that it naturally primes your kid to answer with more than one or two words. Instead of “How was your day?”, some options include:

  • What was the best part of your day?
  • What was the hardest or most challenging part of your day?
  • How were you kind today?
  • What did someone else do today that was nice?
  • In what way were you brave today?
  • What did you do today that was inclusive?
  • You can ask questions like what was the worst part of the day today or what was your least favorite class, I just prefer to focus on the positive stuff because our brains naturally focus on the negative stuff, so I like to give my brain more practice looking for those positives.
  • Try playing two truths and a lie, where your kid tells you two things that did happen that day and one thing that didn’t and you have to guess which one didn’t.
    • Gamifying the conversation like this may make your child more excited to participate.
  • You can get your kids to tell you more stories by telling them more stories yourself. This teaches your kid what kind of answer you are looking for when you ask how their day was.

Asking these types of questions encourages kids to specifically remember events that happened during the day and to tell you about those events.

Asking better questions leads to better conversations, better relationships, and kids who feel comfortable coming to you when they need help. If you focus on positive questions, then you also get practice looking for the goods. And if you ask questions that are in line with your family motto, like “How were you kind today?” you show your kid that you value kindness and encourage them to act kind every day.

You can get your kids to tell you more stories by telling them more stories yourself. This teaches your kid what kind of answer you are looking for when you ask how their day was.

What’s really great about asking these good questions or teaching kids how to respond with stories is that it gets kids to think about specific events that happened and to tell you about them, which helps your kid develop their memory muscles.

When we tell our story, it gives us time to reflect on what happened and make sense of it in a way that we may not have if we didn’t take the time to think about it again. So telling stories of our experiences helps us understand our past experiences, which then informs our present experiences as well. As your kids get older, the stories they tell and the meaning may get more complex.

Sometimes kids have bad experiences and don’t like to think about them, which makes talking about them very difficult. But the way we make sense of those experiences is through talking about them. Kids need to be able to tell their story about what happened so they can make sense of it and move on. You can help them tell that story too if they aren’t able to. The more your child can integrate and understand their scary experiences, the more experience they will have overcoming challenges in the future and the happier, less anxious they will be.

Resources:

Siegel, D. & T. Bryson. (2011). The Whole-Brain Child.New York: Random House.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Stress Management

Forgiveness When We Fail

It’s Thursday evening. I’m finally sitting down to write this post – a day late. With everything that has been going on in my work life and my personal life,  I have not had a chance to go through my email since Monday. I have skimmed through it a bunch of times to make sure I haven’t missed anything important, but my phone currently tells me I have 153 unread emails. I usually like to keep that number at a max of 10. The laundry that my husband washed this past weekend is still waiting for me to fold it. I have not been on a treadmill and I have only meditated once the past 7 days.

Life has been hectic lately, with two wake-up calls before 5 am this week (normally, I wake up at 7 am). Finding time to do the things that make me happy and keep me sane has been difficult. I have failed this week in taking my own advice.

So, today I fixed that. I brought my laptop outside onto the patio, because it is like spring outside, and started to type. The neighbors saw me and stopped by to chat. I did not interrupt our conversation so that I could get back to this. Instead, I enjoyed the moment. I chatted with my neighbors. I watched the sky by the trees get darker. I breathed in the spring air. I watched my dog hunt for squirrels. And every time the thought that I “should get back to work” entered my head, I told myself I needed this break and that I needed to be present in this moment. When I was bored of taking in the scenery, I would turn back to my computer. If I was stuck on a thought, I would just breath in the warm air.

Even those of us that give advice sometimes forget to take it. So tonight I am reminding myself. I am giving myself permission to slow down and to take a real break. And I forgive myself for forgetting to take care of myself this week. Sometimes it can be so difficult to forgive ourselves that we continue on the wrong path and we get stuck in a rut.

So have a lovely night. Take care of yourself and then your children will learn to take care of themselves too.