Do you want to keep the lines of communication open with your teen? Most of us do. After all, communicating openly means that our teens will be more likely to share their feelings with us and turn to us for advice rather than relying on the wisdom of their friends alone.
Communicating openly will also decrease the chance of our teens developing depression, anxiety, and bursts of explosive rage.
So what is the big secret of communicating with your teen? What do we need to do to keep the communication door wide open?
We need to validate. That’s right. That’s the big secret. We need to consistently validate our teen’s feelings.
Validation is accepting their feelings as valid, legitimate, and real. It does not mean that we have to agree with their opinions or accept inappropriate behaviors. Validation tells your teens that their opinions and feelings are important- even if we disagree. Let’s take a look at the different ways that we can validate.
How to Validate a Teen’s Emotions
- Ask questions.
- Listen and repeat back what you heard.
- Shake your head yes to show that you are listening.
- Allow the teen to express their emotions in an appropriate way without fear of punishment.
- Educate teens on the difference between feelings and behaviors.
- They may feel what they feel, but they may not throw the dishes across the room without receiving a consequence.
- Use a calm tone of voice without sounding angry or defensive.
- Pay attention to your body language. (Your angry body language may shut a teen up- but their feelings will fester.)
- Show that you are interested by staying quiet and paying attention to what is being said.
- Turn off the computer, put your phone down, and give your teen your undivided attention.
Words that Validate
- I didn’t know that you felt that way.
- I am glad that you shared this with me.
- I am so sorry that you feel that way.
- I see it differently, but I am glad that you are sharing how you feel.
- I can see that you are really angry.
- It is alright to be angry with your sister, but you may not hit her. (This differentiates feeling from behavior.)
Words that Invalidate
- You don’t really feel that way.
- You shouldn’t feel that way. (Teen’s thinking, but I do. Is something wrong with me?)
- You’re not hurt.
- That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
- That should not have hurt your feelings.
- You are ridiculous.
- That shouldn’t scare you.
If you listen to your teen’s feelings and opinions without becoming angry, they are sure to return and tell you more. Communicating openly will improve your teen’s mental health and improve the relationship between the two of you.