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A Dose of Insight

A common struggle for teens is the frustration and stress from having overbearing parents.

Just today I talked with a 17-year-old client that’s considered the most responsible, sensible, and mature of his friend group, yet has the most restrictive parents of all his friends.

He has a more rigid curfew, more rules around dating, shows he can watch, apps he can use, and what areas of town he’s allowed to go. He spends huge amounts of time either fighting or arguing with his parents or feeling resentful, underestimated, or outraged.

What bothers him most is the sense of unfairness given how responsible he is, and that there’s no way to make it right. There’s nobody to complain to that will let him argue his case and make an objective ruling.

His parents can do whatever they want, they don’t have to listen to him, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

On top of the pressure he feels around school and his future, trying to handle his social anxiety, plus all the other problems in his life, he's constantly worrying about how to avoid being a drag on the group plans because he has to leave early or has other restrictions his friends end up having to deal with.

He stresses constantly about whether his parents will say no to ‘last-minute plans,’ which are by far the most common type of plan in the teen world. Last-minute plans are seen as disorganized and suspicious to his parents, so they often refuse to let him participate.

So for this guy, the fact that his parents knowingly create more stress for him has become the worst of all his problems. In his world, parents are supposed to be supportive and ‘in his corner.’ And in reality, they’ve become villains and antagonists.

From what I've noticed, parents tend to fall on a giant continuum of involvement and restriction. Some parents have no restrictions, either because they consciously decided that, or because their focus is on other things. Maybe they're struggling themselves. So they’re ‘hands off’ by default.

On the other end of the continuum, there are parents that are very much involved in the mechanics and the workings of their kids’ lives on an hourly or daily basis.

And there’s everything in between.

The tricky part is that parenting is one giant gray area. There are no rules or formulas. There’s no right way.

And in the grand scheme of things, parents are writing the script as they go along and can only do what makes sense to them.

So why did this 17 year old land in a house with strict parents and his best friend landed in a more “relaxed and basically better in every way” (his words) house?

I have no idea.

But I do know that with each ‘parenting package,’ there are upsides and downsides. That's one of the things I talk about in today's video.

I also know that just like you, every parent wakes up in the morning wanting to be a good person and do the right thing.

Sometimes a little understanding of this dilemma (which ultimately teens and parents are in together) helps neutralize some of the outrage and insult that teens feel in such huge amounts.

And a little insight may offer a way to approach conversations that get more results, more give and take, and more respect, consideration, and partnership.

That’s what today’s video is about.

Being a teen isn't easy. In many ways, it's MUCH harder than being a parent of a teen.

I hope this video helps, even if it's just a little.

Click below to watch.

A lot of the questions I get from practitioners working with younger clients focus on how to handle certain issues, what to say to them, how to say it, what to do.

Often the dilemma is that the problems young people have are so different from what they themselves faced growing up.

I’m 49, for example, so I didn’t have to navigate social media as a 14-year-old, I never had to balance homework with screen-time. My teen clients face very different career path issues than I faced.

And for many practitioners and parents, they didn’t have mood swings, they didn’t struggle in academics, or their social life was fairly simple and easy.

So they have no idea what to say or offer a teen dealing with crippling academic pressure, social anxiety, rage, bullying, or depression.

But what I’ve found with struggling young clients is that what you say to them doesn’t matter much. What they really care about is the feeling you bring into the room.

When you work with a struggling young person (or you’re raising one), I’d like to suggest that your lack of input or experience is a good thing. Because the only thing you have to offer is openness and a soft landing for them.

If you stop to think about it, even if you went through exactly what they’re going through, teens don’t want to hear your story, your advice, or what you did. Chances are, neither did you when you were their age. They want to find their own answers. And they can.

So not knowing what to say, and simply listening, is ultimately what they want.

If you’re not busy trying to save or fix them, what they’ll feel from you is the sense that you’re in it together, trying to make sense of things, seeing what they think, listening and wanting to understand, asking things like “So what’s your biggest concern?” or “What’s the hardest part of all this for you?”

We all want to be understood, acknowledged, and have someone stop and show a genuine interest and respect for what we’re going through.

That kind of presence calms and settles people down. And for you, it can only happen in the absence of ‘doing,’ fixing, or saving them.

The more settled down you are, the more likely your client or your kid will drop into a more stable, secure, and open, creative state.

And in that state, people see their own answers.

I was late joining a conference call this morning and the cord to my headset was a tangled mass. Frustrated, but not making any progress, I set it down to get my water. In the walk across the room, my mind reset, I sat down, looped it through one place, and that was all it needed. It straightened out instantly.

That’s how the human mind works. When we calm down, where we see a tangled mess from a tense, upset state, we see a next step, a level of clarity, a sense of order, or the heart of the issue.

The circumstances are the same, but a shift in our level of consciousness brings a fresh set of eyes.

As practitioners, we can’t offer a struggling client a level of consciousness we don’t have ourselves.

By letting go of our own agenda and pressure to fix, solve, or save, we’re able to truly show up, be present and listen

And that calm and quiet state in us can bring out the calm and quiet in them. There’s a universal intelligence all struggling clients are connected to, even the messy teen clients. Our job is to create a space in both of us so that intelligence has a chance to surface.

That's what today's recording is all about.

Click below to watch.

A few weeks ago I got to see some of your faces on the webinar I did with Dr. George Pransky.

Teens and young adults often have very busy minds. Something that might go in and out of our minds in a matter of seconds, hovers in their thoughts for days, weeks, months...and the problems we might see as insignificant feel like mayhem and destruction for their lives.

If you work with teens, or live with them, you've probably seen it yourself - their hostile nature when they shut down, lash out at you, or hardly resemble the person you thought you knew.

That's the topic for today's webinar recording. For those who aren't familiar with George Pransky, he's my former business partner as well as my dad. He and I spent two decades working with teens and young adults to bring more stability and resilience to their lives.

George's strength has always been the sincerity, respect, and goodwill he brings to his young clients, even the ones that are shut down or upset. And that's what teens respond to best. It gives them the go-ahead to open up when they're ready.

George and I discuss how you, as a parent or practitioner, can find a way to engage teens, and approach the conversation so that they can feel you're in their corner.

Click below to watch.

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