I have a teenager, now what? by Stefanie Scott

Time has gone by faster than you ever thought it could. Everyone said it would go fast, but you didn’t realize how fast your baby would grow. Your little is now learning how to navigate adult-ish roles, adult-ish circumstances, and puberty. You might have noticed they have changed, not just in appearance but in how they interact with you. Perhaps they are less willing to talk with you about their day or their friends. This is all normal and it can hurt us caregivers.

It would be so much easier if we could just crack open their brain and find out exactly what is going on. Unfortunately, there is no magic way to get anyone to share their thoughts and feelings. The following “teen shorthand” helps to create a safe space for teens to share what they want while caregivers can get information on how they are doing.

The “How-Are-Things Shorthand”:

If you have a teen who is a kid of few words, try this method to find out how things are going.

    1. Ask them how they are doing on a scale of 1-10. Describe what 1 is (where 1 feels depressed and like you cannot get out of bed, or some other description your kid would understand) and what a 10 is (feels like I could not be more excited about life!). Ask them where they fall, in this moment, on the scale.
    2. Normalize all numbers on the scale! It is okay for them to feel any of these “numbers”, and it is completely normal. Teens might be afraid to tell you how they are really feeling if you get worried too fast about a low number. The goal is to get an honest answer without them having to talk more if they don’t want to.
    3. Respect and thank your kid for sharing with you. Sometimes it’s hard to share how we feel. When you thank your child for telling you their answer, you are showing you are a safe person to come to.
  • Ask if they want to talk more. Warning: they might not want to tell you more…and that is fine! Asking if they want to share more is not necessarily about getting them to spill their guts, it’s about showing them again you are safe to speak to when and if they are ready. 
  • Keep asking! The key to this method is to keep asking how they are doing. Showing your child that you are truly interested in them means you need to repeat this check-in. You might be surprised that after a few times of checking in how much they are willing to share. 

Remember: Low numbers are okay to have as long as they do not stay in the low range (1-2) for long periods of time. Trust your gut and seek professional mental health consultation should you feel growing concern for your teen and your teen expresses worry. There is help and you don’t have to do it alone!

Hopefully, this method will help you and your teen become more connected and you feel more at ease with how your child is doing. 

*Method adapted from:

De Shazer, S., Dolan, Y., Korman, H., Trepper, T., McCollum, E., & Kim Berg, I. (2007). More than miracles: The state of the art of solution-focused brief therapy. Routledge.

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