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Most of us can vouch that being a teenager was one of the hardest and confusing times of our lives. Trying to find our own identities, belief systems and at the same time trying to fit in and be cool. The turmoil of wanting our own freedom and yet secretly yearning the affection and guidance of our parents. This roller-coaster ride is painful and yet when you emerge from it, sorted and victorious, you miss it immensely.

I request all reading this and dealing with teenagers, to remember your teen emotions and then read on. It will make relating to this so much easier.

One common area of trouble that parents of teenagers deal with is TRUST. In my practice, I have seen that parents, possibly unintentionally or due to lack of options end up using stringent and sly methods to keep their teens “in control”. This leads to distrust towards the parent in the teens mind.
Most teens complain that their parents snoop into their personal lives so much that they have no space at all. They are doubted and questioned about the smallest of things. Such insecurity on your end gives rise to what your teen believes to be “mental torture”.

Of-course, at no point do I mean that you should let your child do whatever (s)he pleases and trust them because “they know what is good for them”. What I mean is, that there are better ways of being a part of your teens life and making sure that they confide in you when necessary.
Some simple yet important ways are:

1) Stop Snooping:

Children hate that parents try to read their messages, or strain their necks to see what videos are playing on the laptop screen, unfortunately some parents don’t stop there, they go ahead and even read the personal diaries of their children when they are away at school. Such violation of privacy can lead to massive distrust and anger between the parent and teen. At this age, children are much more sensitive because of the anxiety they feel about who they are and who they want to become.
They want to feel that you, an adult, their role model, believes that they are not always irresponsible or will always do the wrong thing. Based on how their parents react to their need of personal privacy the teen decides how much to share and trust.

2) Respect your teen:

Yes, they are just children, but it is very important for you to respect them and value their opinion.
Putting them down while speaking to them or making them feel they know nothing about life will lead to a communication gap between you and your teen. Listen to what they really have to say and if you feel that their opinion is based on a limited view, rather than saying that out loud, gently help them see a larger perspective and help them be informed better. Allow them to have a say in things that affect them and try to include what they say in your decisions as well.

3) Validate their emotions:

To validate feelings means to acknowledge your teens emotions. It doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with them, it just means you have heard them and you understand what they are saying and you appreciate their point of view. A lot of teens feel angry at things which adults feel are not even of consequence, so they are told its just silly that they are upset, which just upsets your teen even more. What they want to hear is that “I understand that this has made you angry and it is okay for you to feel this”, once you have communicated your validation, guide them with introspective questioning, which will help them see things with a new perpective. Eg: could there be another possible way to respond to this situation or see this situation, one that may make you feel less hurt/angry?

4) Chill time:

Spend quality time with your teen REGULARY. Chill with them. Ask them what they would like to do and do it with them, if you can. Also alternate it with something that you enjoy doing, which your teen has to be a part of. This will help your teen understand and know more things that just what his teenage world has to offer, seeing you enthusiastic to do things your teen enjoys, will help him/her trust you, feel closer to you and help you both appreciate each other. Being involved in these activities, seeing how your child react to situations, will help you gauge your child and his thought processes. Knowing him more will reduce your anxiety and need to snoop.

5) Be honest:

I personally believe this is the simplest and most important method. When you are truthful with you teen, they will do the same with you. This tells them that you trust them, and they will do their best to maintain that trust. The minute they feel you are deceiving and are putting on a façade, they will go back into their shell and become guarded. Remember, it is a very emotional process for your teen to confide in anyone, they do this only with people they trust. If you break they will feel extremely betrayed and not trust you again.

6) Positive Language:

This is a little tricky and takes some time, however, once you start using this, it is easy and effective.
This involves talking to your teen in words that are positive and encouraging. Eg: during exams rather than saying “I hope you do well” or “do well”, use “I know you will do your best”. When your child makes a mistake and apologises to you, a good way to make sure that they don’t do it again and use their better judgement before making the mistake would be to tell them, that you appreciate that they realise they were wrong and you trust them when they say won’t do it again. Your faith in them, makes them more confident of themselves.

These are a few ways that will surely help you bring trust between you and your teen. Also based on the relation you both share, you can use your own ways and methods as long as it leads to healthy trust and space between the two of you.

By Dr.Jyotika Aggarwal
Clinical Psychologist

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