Parents of adolescents are often confronted by a puzzling sequence of events. First, teenagers bring us their problems; second, we earnestly offer suggestions and solutions; and third, teenagers dismiss our ideas as irritating, irrelevant or both.
These moments feel ripe for connection. Why do they so often turn sour? Almost always, it’s because we’re not giving teenagers what they’re really looking for. Consciously or not, here’s what they most likely want.
They Need a Sounding Board
Adolescents, just like adults, may find the best relief from simply articulating their worries and concerns. Indeed, it’s an aphorism among psychologists that most problems feel better when they’re on the outside rather than on the inside, and this holds true whether the difficulties are big or small.
When teenagers bring problems our way, it’s best to start by assuming that they aren’t inviting suggestions, or at least are not inviting them yet. So let them vent.
“I’ll talk to my parents as a sounding board,” says 18-year-old Kathleen Deedy of Mission Hills, Kan., “especially if it’s not enough of an issue for me to want to do something about it. I just want to get it off my chest.”