For parents in today's technology obsessed world, relating to and communicating with their teens, especially those who are troubled or confused, is often a frustrating experience that leaves everyone involved upset and angry. Fortunately, there is hope for parents who want to repair their strained relationship. With effort, it is entirely possible for parents and their troubled teen to regain lost trust, commit to positive changes in their relationship, and rebuild their fractured relationship. Understanding "how to communicate" effectively with your teenager is the first step.

Communication Trends: Parents and Milllennial Children

The Complicated World of Teens

While parents were once teens themselves, they often forget how difficult being a teen can be. Unfortunately, today's teens have it harder than ever, largely due to all the technology they have available at their disposal [1]. Thanks to cell phones and social media, teens feel as if they are obligated to be in constant contact with others and answer messages immediately, which can lead to anxiety and depression. In addition, teens send an average of 30 and 50 text messages a day, which causes constant distraction that can affect grades and sleep patterns [2]. At the same time, teens are at risk of being bullied, while struggling to manage academic curriculum that is becoming increasingly more difficult, and being bombarded with messages that can easily affect their body image and self-esteem.

Symptoms of Trouble

When teens are struggling with these issues, they can miss out on developing certain developmental skills and/or display changes in their behavior. Despite frequently texting and talking to each other via social media, more and more teens lack social skills and social boundaries. As a result, they may be socially inept, emotionally immature, and struggle to engage appropriately with others, even family members and longtime friends. Parents may notice that their children are becoming progressively more distant, withdrawn, and isolated. They may be bullied by others or even be the bully themselves.

Over time, they may develop multiple strained relationships, especially with their parents. It goes without saying that this can have a dramatic impact on communication. Conversations may be marked by yelling, eye rolling, doors slamming, and mumbling under their breath. It is important that parents understand that while part of this is because of the developmental stage they are in, parents do not have to resign themselves to living with this behavior indefinitely.

A Look at How Teens Communicate

Explosiveness and distance are frequently the only ways a teen, both male and female, knows how to communicate when things get complicated [3]. Obviously, being angry and argumentative or simply walking away in a fit of rage only makes the situation worse. While it can be difficult for parents to deal with these behaviors, it may give them some comfort to know that part of this is the result of a "thinking error" [4]. Teens who utilize this way of thinking see themselves as the victim, while perceiving the rest of the world, especially their parents, as the enemy. This thought process can lead teens to constantly challenge, criticize, or attack anything their parents may say.

Parents may or may not be shocked to to learn that this behavior is common in adolescents from affluent families who have been spoiled and raised with a sense of entitlement [5]. Of course, stress, age, and family income do not forgive a teen's problematic behavior. When parents are no longer able to relate to their teen and communication breaks down, it is crucial that the parents seek help for their teen. Waiting too long can lead a teen down a self-destructive path that may potentially have devastating consequences.

Finding a Solution

It is not unusual for parents to state, "Oh, that's just typical teen behavior. All teens are hostile and hate interacting and communicating with their parents. I did it, too. It's just a phase." The truth is that this is not appropriate behavior and it should not be dismissed or excused. It is critical that parents find an effective way to bridge the communication gap and rebuild lost trust between themselves and their confused teen.

There are plenty of parenting tips available regarding this type of situation. Advice, such as don't attack or lecture, keep interactions short and simple, and show teen's respect, is readily accessible all over the internet. While following these suggestions may help resolve the problem in some situations, it will not be successful in far more cases. When a situation is dire, teens can benefit immensely from receiving expert therapeutic treatment in a structured and secure environment that is free of technology, including TVs, cell phones, and social media, as well as any of the negative influences they may be spending time with.

Wingate Provides the Help Teens Need

At Wingate Wilderness Therapy, we have designed a structured, yet nurturing wilderness therapy program that helps troubled teens look beyond their past negative behaviors and see who they really are. Using a variety of proven therapeutic interventions, we give teens the opportunity to experience natural consequence for their actions, which allows them to improve their self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment. The result is a long lasting internal change that will carry over to their relationship with their parents, as well as others.

Parents must understand that the teen years are rarely easy for anyone, while teens need to comprehend that their parent's are simply trying to help them navigate their complicated world and re-establish a relationship that is open, loving, and comfortable.

Regardless of how fractured a relationship may currently be between a parent and their teen, there is always hope that it can be mended. Wingate Wilderness Therapy provides the tools necessary to reopen communication and rebuild relationships that last.

[1] The American Teenager in 2015 on the Fringe of Something New by Victor Luckerson

[2] 2015 Teen Social Media Use: What You Need to Know by Heidi Cohen

[3] 5 Secrets for Communicating With Teenagers by Debbie Pincus MS LMHC

[4] Why is My Child So Angry? Part I with James Lehman MSW

[5] The Collateral Damage of a Teenager by Jennifer Senior

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WinGate Therapy
WinGate Therapy

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