The Importance of Biting Your Tongue
A common roadblock that keeps kids from confiding in their parents is the “I’ll solve it” scenario. Teens want to be heard and seen just like us. They don’t want someone telling them what to do about their sadness. They want to be listened to and comforted.
I see this all the time with parents and teens. I’m a parent too, so I get it. We want our kids to feel better. We suffer when we see them in distress so we try to solve the problem as fast as we can. Not only to stop their suffering but to stop our own pain from watching them suffer. Our gut reaction is to tell them what to do to fix the situation, which isn’t very comforting and leads to disconnection rather than connection which is why they came to you in the first place. We skip over their feelings and try to solve them. This can be very invalidating and can leave them feeling even more overwhelmed with a list of todos. “Why don’t you just…”, “you need to… .“ Ouch. Seems very different from the comforting playground scenario when your little one scrapes their knee. In these moments, it’s best to bite your tongue and listen. To be clear, I’m not saying we need to treat them like we did when they were little. It’s really just the pattern of interaction that needs to be the same. Listen, comfort, reassure… and then maybe later help them solve it… if they invite us to.
Talk with your kids about their struggles, life’s difficulties, and mental health. It helps them normalize their experience and struggles. Talking with them fosters a sense of constant safety, reducing their sense of aloneness and shame. It cultivates closeness and healthy attachment. It can also help them make sense of their feelings and experiences – creating a state of congruence between emotions and thoughts, which will help reduce stress. It allows for flexibility in their daily lives, inviting in how they feel and moving through the changes in their emotional states.
When they can see they can share their messiness with you, and you can handle it and comfort them, they feel safe to bring it to you again.