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... » Find a Therapist » California » Pleasant Hill Therapists » Therapist Profile

Debbie Bauer, MA, LMFT

Relating To Your Teen

June 2009 Newsletter

Hello all –
I hope this finds you well. This month I’d like to share an email exchange I had with a parent of one of my clients. I see teens in my practice and enjoy working with them immensely. It is common for teens to complain about parents being “unfair” or not understanding them. Parents often contact me asking for suggestions with their teen - recognizing that what they are currently doing is simply not working.
There are many suggestions I regularly offer to parents of teens. This email had to do with communication. So below, I have copied the email transmissions I shared with this parent – changing of course identifying details. Keep in mind as you read this - that this communication exchange and the strategies suggested may also be applicable with one’s partner in an adult relationship. Here goes…..

Hi Debbie,
I wondered if you could offer a suggestion to me to help my teen (we’ll call him Jake), feel that I understand/hear him. We had a little difficulty last night when he and his sibling got into a fight. I really didn't witness much of what happened except that I heard yelling and told them to stop. Jake got very upset and said that I always side with his sibling and he always gets the blame. He said I tell everyone that he is bad and everyone in the family tends to believe that he is the problem and his sibling is "perfect". I felt really bad that I couldn't get him to understand that what I was upset about was his yelling and anger not that I was blaming him for the argument with his sibling. He feels like I tell everyone when something like this happens, like I am telling on him. I am just wondering if you might be able to suggest an approach that I could use. Obviously the way I think is helpful is not.
Thank you, Mary

Hi Mary,
The most important thing you can do with Jake is to validate his feelings - when he is fighting with his sibling or letting out anger, you could simply mirror his feelings back to him to let him know you get it and that he is understood. You could say - "I know you are angry about .......... and I know you feel your sibling is doing such and such........ AND - (not but) I need you to take a break - maybe a walk outside, to calm down so we can talk about this situation when everyone is calmer." Telling him to stop yelling or to stop being angry is not going to get it when his emotions are overflowing. Try to let him tell you all the ways he thinks things are unfair or whatever without stating what you want or need. Just let him let it out - mirror his feelings - "I hear you are sick of your sibling doing whatever......etc." Don't try to "correct" his feelings or explain them away. Then only when he is calmer, you can talk with him about what made him angry and how it would help for you to intervene - get his input since he feels you are not handling things as he would like - ask him what would be helpful. You don't necessarily need to do what he says but you are valuing him by asking him those questions. Jake needs to feel heard and valued. Believe me teens at this age are never easy - I raised 4 of them. Stay in touch and let me know other ways I can help your relationship with Jake.
Take care, Debbie

Hi again Debbie –
Thank you for taking the time to write this out, this is very helpful! These are very useful suggestions, you worded it all very well and I can see how it will be helpful. I can see how much it differs from my usual approach and how this would be validating for him.
Thank you again, I really appreciate your help! ~Mary

So that’s my sharing for now. As I’ve said before – everyone simply wants to know they are being HEARD. Once again - should you or someone you know need some support in making life more manageable, I invite you to phone or email me.

Warmly,

Debbie Bauer, LMFT

Please visit my website at www.debbiebauer.com

~easing life’s journey~

Debbie Bauer, MA, LMFT, Pleasant Hill
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Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
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