We often read articles about improving communication between you and your teen. And it’s true; we need skilled communication to succeed in any relationship.
However, if you dig a little deeper, something more nuanced needs our attention — validation.
If you have a sullen, argumentative, or dismissive teenager, you know how hard it can feel to communicate with them.
What if what they needed was validation?
Validation creates understanding, which opens the door for meaningful communication. That said, here are three ways validation helps to improve your relationship with your teen.
1. Acknowledge What They Feel
One of the basic things about being a teen is the belief that nobody understands you. As we get older, we realize that adults often understand why their teen acts the way they do, mostly because we’ve all been there ourselves.
However, do you ever talk to your teen about their feelings? It might surprise them to hear that you do “get” them. Be careful not to assume their emotions, yet you can presume that they feel a specific way.
For example, “It seems like you might be anxious right now about the exam tomorrow. Is that right?” In two sentences, you have validated their emotions. This approach can soften their stance and allow both of you to talk about what’s going on.
2. Give Your Full Attention
Another way you can validate your teen is by being fully present with them. That means if you get an incoming text or call, you ignore it. Better yet, either mute your phone or turn off your device altogether to eliminate the distraction.
Sit next to your teen and open your ears and your heart. When you hear their struggles, try to imagine yourself being in a similar situation. How would you feel?
Most likely, you would feel the same way as your teen does now. This approach work requires that you give your full attention to your teen. Otherwise, your response will come off as insincere. That is a guaranteed way not to improve communication.
3. Authenticate Their Emotions
It might surprise teenagers to hear their parents say that what they’re feeling is okay. Yet, this is such a powerful way of validating your child.
Teens experience all kinds of emotions and all at once, too. This bombardment often leaves them feeling confused and distressed. Also, there will be situations in which they get upset or feel sad and discouraged.
When you validate their feelings, you remove the barriers that teens put up to protect themselves and their emotions. Validating your child’s feelings will allow you the opening to begin a more in-depth dialogue together.
Practice and Refine Validation
Believe it or not, practicing validation with your teen takes more skill than you realize. Your might fumble in your first attempts as you try to find the words you want to convey.
Talk to a therapist to improve your technique. Therapy is an excellent opportunity to practice validation and specific communication skills that utilize validation. Your therapist can also provide feedback as you discuss situations where you practiced validation with your teen. This dialogue will help you to improve your communication with your teen and improve your relationship with them, too.
Talking to teens can often seem like a challenge — but validation is one useful tool that helps to bridge the gap. Consider implementing the strategies mentioned above.
Also, talk to a therapist about how to best use validation in your conversations with your teen. Please reach out to our office today to learn more about how we can help.
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