Raising teenagers can be a difficult prospect. They’re not quite kids anymore and they have a lot to learn before they’re ready for independence. This is a time of life where teenagers want to be trusted and viewed as adults by their parents, and parents know from their perspective and experience that teenagers are not yet ready for that kind of independence.
Teens can often find themselves in trouble with grades, school life, family life, and emotional wellbeing. Sometimes teens recognize this themselves and realize they need help and will ask parents to help them get some counseling. I see this most often when kids experience anxiety or depression. Other times, parents have to make the decision that their kids need counseling help, whether they like it or not.
Solution Focused Counseling works great with teenagers because it works from the assumption that both the teen and the parents are doing more things right than they are wrong. I ask questions to figure out what things are going well that they should keep doing. Parents are often pleasantly surprised to learn their teens see them as doing lots of good things as parents.
I counsel teens to help them figure out what changes they want to make, and I involve the parents in this discussion. I find most teenagers do value their parents input, but it helps to have a third party ask the parents questions so the teens can hear the parents’ wishes and suggestions without it being taken as a “lecture” by the teenager.
I also find most teenagers know what their parents would advise them, which means they have been taking in what parents have been telling them, but often pride and a need for being respected for thinking for themselves prevents them from being able to acknowledge this to their parents.
One thing that often comes from counseling teenagers is that they prefer to do things their own way and solve their own problems without help from parents. And truth be told, they often have good ideas for how to solve their problems. One thing that commonly comes from counseling is that the teenager often wants the same things for themselves that their parents want, but they want to find their own way of getting there. So, counseling often involves helping the teen figure out what they need to do differently, and encouraging parents to be there as observers to the change and also safety nets when the kids need a sounding board or advice. Most teens tell me they sometimes want advice from parents but they often want to figure things out themselves first, when possible.
One thing parents often want is better communication with their teenagers; they want their teen to talk to them and let them know what is going on in their lives. Counseling often involves helping parents and teenagers negotiate this communication so they both get what they want. Teenagers often want to keep the communication open as much as their parents do, but want a little more control over how they provide information, how much, and when.
Counseling for teenagers involves:
- Helping the teen figure out what they’re doing right so they can do more of what works.
- Helping the teen figure out what changes they want to make in their lives.
- Helping the teen understand what changes their parents hope to make in their lives and why.
- Helping the teen decide what small, do-able steps they can start with to start making changes without feeling overwhelmed by changing too much too soon.