LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan
Validate And Empower Your Adolescent Child – Utah Family Therapy
Family therapy with adolescents in Utah often involves two key developmental principles. First, parents have to change their parenting style to match the stage their child is in. Second, adolescents need to learn how to become their own person and still remain a part of a group like their family. These principles are outlined in the article here: Family Therapy – How To Create A Stronger Family.
In this article, we will do a deep dive into your developmental task of parenting differently as your children grow. For a deeper dive into the adolescent task of becoming their own person and remaining part of a group – a future article will be posted here.
How To Handle Your Adolescent Child’s Discomfort
Learning how to increasingly give your child space to learn and grow is an important aspect of parenting them differently over the years. This can involve how you handle their complaints or their general discomfort in life.
When they were newborns, you were expected to do most everything. This included needing to calm their crying, take care of their diapers and feed them. If they were uncomfortable, it was on you to take care of it. Increasingly, over the years you have been giving them more and more responsibility to take care of themselves. Wasn’t it nice when they were out of diapers and able to use the bathroom on their own? At some point you didn’t need to change their diaper as you taught them new skills.
You do this for them physically, also do it for them emotionally. One thing to keep in mind when helping your adolescent grow is that they need to be able to take care of their emotional selves more than they have in the past. You don’t want to go too far and abandon them (Related Article: Counseling Tip – Polarized Thinking Is Hurting You). You also don’t want to swing the other way too far and do everything for them.
When your adolescent comes to you complaining about something or is uncomfortable in general try to validate and empower them.
Validating your adolescent child involves letting them know you hear them. You validate their emotions rather than their thoughts. To be able to do this correctly, you will need to understand the difference between thoughts and emotions (Related Articles: Emotions 101: How To Be Healthy and 3 Principles Of Emotional Health). You don’t have to agree with their thoughts to validate their emotions.
For example, let’s say your adolescent child comes to you and says, “My teacher at school hates me. They are so unfair and now I am failing their class. This is stressing me out”. You don’t have to agree with them that their teacher is unfair to say, “I can see that this is stressful for you and that you are trying to get better grades”. You are validating their stress – not the fact that their teacher hates or doesn’t hate them. Your child might not emphasize that they are feeling stressed, but you can tell they are. Also, avoid correcting them by saying, “Your teacher doesn’t hate you”. This usually leads to an argument.
Your child has the potential to feel heard in this situation. They might still try to put the solution on you, but at least they are feeling heard.
Empowering your adolescent child involves putting them in control of their outcomes. You want them to focus on what they can control rather than what they can’t. Show them that you believe in them and help them have confidence in themselves.
For example, in the above situation you could say, “I know you can figure it out”. Or, “I believe you can figure out how to make it right”. You could even ask, “What needs to happen to make your grade better?” Try to get them away from what they can’t control – their teacher, and move them towards what they can control – themselves. Get them talking about their role and what they can do. You might have the answer for them, but they need to come up with it on their own at some point. Lead them towards this.
When you validate and empower your adolescent children, you teach them how to take care of themselves while still being there for them.