Tips for having difficult conversations with teens.

If you’re worried about your teen’s mental health, things like anxiety or depression, or maybe an issue with friends then it may be time to have a somewhat awkward or difficult conversation.

Difficult conversations go better when you’re well prepared, calm, open-minded and non-judgmental. Being prepared can help you feel more confident and comfortable to navigate difficult conversations. Maybe you’re worried about their mental health? Maybe you’re noticing signs of anxiety or depression. Whatever the concern might be, how you approach them and have the conversation is very important.

Be patient: it might take a few attempts or you might be sitting and waiting for a response. That’s ok. There is nothing wrong with silence. Don’t rush them, take your time be patient. If you’re going to approach them about something, make sure you choose a time with both of you are not going to bit distracted or in a rush.

Listen: if you ask them a question and they start to talk don’t interrupt just sit there and listen. Silence can be very powerful so be sure to listen a lot more than you talk. And truly listen don’t just wait for a chance to interject and offer something listen for the sake of listening

Don’t interrupt or offer solutions: This is very important. Let them talk. Don’t interrupt to offer solutions, most of the time we want to feel connected, heard, and validated. Simply let them express their feelings and what’s going on. You could ask things like and what’s that like or can you tell me more. But don’t offer any advice or solutions. Even if they say, I just don’t know what to do. You can affirm by saying, that sounds tough, or  I cant see why you feel mad, frustrated, annoyed, sad, etc

Be supportive and nonjudgemental: You may not understand all the reasons for their decision or why they’re feeling a certain way. Be supportive and nonjudgemental. Don’t say things like you’ll regret this when you’re older or that’s a silly thing to say or that’s a silly thing to do. Be honest if you’re shocked by something they say, but reassure them that you do want to discuss it further. This can reinforce your relationships and show them you’re willing to talk to them about anything. If it’s something you don’t know much about, then say, actually don’t know a lot about this maybe I need to go and research a little and get back to you. But where possible keep your judgments and assumptions to yourself.

Don’t minimise the problem or issue. What they’re saying might seem small or trivial to you. That’s not the point. All feelings are fine and what triggered those feelings may not be something that triggers the same thing for you. An issue with a friendship or poor grade at school or feeling like they’ve let someone down can be a really big deal. Don’t minimise the issue or the problem, don’t disregard it and say that that’s something you won’t remember in five years’ time. Try not to say “I understand, but…” this simply disqualifies what you’ve just said.  Over time it makes them feel like they can’t talk to you about these things. 

Don’t say when I was your age I… This might feel like a really unusual thing not to do, but this makes a conversation about you. And it minimises the experience and can be judgemental or critical. This can be one of the most patronising things to say and people tend not to respond well to it. While it is meant with good intention it doesn’t often come across that way. If you want to offer advice and you think it’s something relevant ask permission first say something like I went through something similar would you like to hear how I handled it? Or I actually have a few ideas of what I think might help did you want to hear them? This can be one of the most patronising things to say and people tend not to respond well to it. While it is meant with good intention it doesn’t often come across that way.


To find out more you may like to check out one of our workshops or training. 

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