Teens as Experts: What Parents Can Learn From Their ChildrenParents
Teens as Experts
You are the kind of parent who cares so much about your relationship with your child that you are searching for advice on how best to connect with her, or seeking strategies you can use to help her meet challenges life throws her way. There is no one more committed to raising your child to be a person prepared to thrive than you. You also have the earned wisdom of lived experience.
At the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, we are a group of health professionals, psychologists, and youth advocates committed to using the best of research and science about youth development and parenting to offer information and share strategies supporting parents. Together, we can create a powerful partnership to guide your child.
But we do not know your adolescent or the particular environment he needs to navigate. We do not know his peers or the pressures he feels every day to keep up and succeed in the world. We do not know his thoughts and feelings.
He does. She does. Our children may lack the insight to know how to comprehend the complex forces at play in their lives…but they do understand each of the pieces.
You are so lucky to live with an expert on your teenager.
There is no book nor adolescent expert (us included) who knows more about what your teen needs than YOUR TEEN.
Our children do not always know how to let us know what they need. They may choose to protect us from the complexity of their lives. For this and other reasons, they do not always choose to share with us all that they feel. Your goal is not to learn everything, rather be there when needed.
So much of the material we offer at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication is about how you can optimize communication with your family. This is about adopting a style of parenting that encourages and invites children to choose to talk to their parents.
A Starting Point
A starting point is to ask our children to guide us about how best we can support them. To find the strength and comfort level to share what they need from us. They may lack the complex and nuanced understandings that could allow them to create a full strategy to navigate their lives. They need us for that. They do know what they are dealing with in their lives, and where they feel as though they are stumbling. It is not for them to solve all of their problems, rather it’s for them to give you enough information that positions you to guide them.
Empower Your Teen
When we treat teens as experts in their own lives, they feel empowered. With empowerment, they can take the risk to let others into their lives. With empowerment, they can problem-solve.
This approach is preferable to acting as though we as adults have all the answers, which can lead them to push us away. Delving into their lives and asking for details they aren’t ready to offer can lead them to shut down. Treating them as if they are somehow broken and in need of rescuing can cause them to withdraw. Worst of all, treating them as if they could never figure out how to solve problems, can lead them to believe they are incapable. That’s the worst outcome of all because it affects their growing confidence.
Choosing to treat teens as experts can be quite a change. It may be contradictory to how you were raised. But try it on for size. Treat it as an experiment. Prepare for a shocked reaction. “What planet are you from, and where did you take my parent?!?” But also, prepare for a changed relationship.
How to Let Your Teen be the Expert
No one knows more about your teen … than your teen! Read on to learn how to let your teen be the expert in his/her own life. And why this is so valuable.
Empower Your Teen
It’s empowering for your teen when you involve him/her in decision-making and problem-solving. It shows you believe your teen is capable. This empowers a sense of pride and know-how.
Collaborate With Your Teen
While adults have the wisdom of experience, young people have the best insight into what it’s like to be a teen today. Work together to determine how much of your input any given situation may require. (Maybe none!)
Encourage Problem Solving
Support your teen’s growing confidence to come up with successful problem-solving strategies. Avoid jumping in and making your teen feel less than capable.
Let Your Teen Make Mistakes
This isn’t always easy. But sometimes the best way for your teen to become an expert is through trial and error. That means making mistakes. And learning how to bounce back.