Do you have a troubled teenager who you are worried is going to end in a juvenile detention centre?

I did and it’s scary AF.

The problem with troubled teenagers ending up in such placements is that they are far away from their parents and the true support systems when they need it most. This can end up causing depression, thoughts of suicide, acting-out behaviours and recidivism in these locations.

The best parenting advice in such cases is to start a conversation with your troubled teen. Let’s read on to see more about why listening is the number one skill you need to develop as parents of troubled teenagers.

Teenagers Want to Be Heard and Understood

If you think that your teenager is acting up because he or she wants attention, you might be entirely right. Most teenagers or children aren’t mature enough to understand the best way to ask for help or reach out for assistance. Maybe they are feeling ignored or are struggling in some real way.

They might be having trouble at school or they might have something else bothering them. But they might not know how to best broach the subject with you. They might even be afraid that you might blame them for the issue at school and be fearful that you might get upset with them for taking up your time with such an inconsequential matter.

No matter if you think it’s inconsequential, if it matters to your teenager, it matters!

The best way to build a relationship with your teenager is to let them know that you are available for a conversation. That you are there to listen to them, no matter what they bring up.

Most teenagers feel misunderstood and unheard. They feel like they are the only ones on the entire planet suffering like they are. They feel lost and lonely.

Teenagers Will Test You

They might not take you up on your offer of reaching out at first. They might even scoff at it.

You know how temperamental teenagers can be. But you should never take it personally, and realize that they are just testing the waters to see if you mean it.

They are testing you to see if you are truly ready to listen to everything they have to say. They might even throw a landmine into the conversation like ‘I’m thinking about having sex with my boyfriend’ or ‘I’m thinking about moving in with my girlfriend’, to see how you would react.

Let’s look at some tips on how to build active listening skills below.

Stay Calm and Nonreactive

Make sure to do some breathing exercises or mindfulness practice before any conversation with your teenager. Otherwise, you are going to get angry and start yelling or saying terrible things, which could create even more of a distance between you. Take everything they say as it comes, without reacting.

You will have time enough later to process everything and figure out what’s true and what’s a test and how to approach it.

Don’t Take Things Personally

It might feel like your teenager is doing or saying things to jab at you and hurt you personally, but that’s not their intention. Even if it is, there’s no point letting it get to you.

The main thing you need to do here is to listen and realize that everything they are saying is about them, and where they are at, and not about you or your parenting skills (or failure as a parent).

Listen Emphatically (Not Sympathetically)

Put yourself in their shoes. You were a teenager once too. And you probably felt like they did, even if you can’t remember it now.

Don’t put distance between you and your troubled teenagers, thinking you were never ‘this bad’. Everyone deals with crises and growing up differently. Realizing this will help you be more empathic with your teenager.

Listen More Than You Speak

Your ratio of listening to speaking should be at least 4:1. Do not say anything unless they ask you a question directly.

Parents of Troubled Teenagers Need To Start Listening More

It’s time for you to start treating your teenagers like friends rather than as enemies. You are on the same side as them, remember that!

Once you start having long conversations with them, they are going to come around and speak to you more about what’s troubling them and why they are acting up the way they are.

If you wish to build your teenagers up to be powerful leaders of tomorrow and would like some parenting advice or coaching in this regard, contact me today!