Schools out, summer’s here and suddenly there are young people everywhere! Whether they are your own teens, members of your local community, or the pride and joy of friends and family – it’s always handy to have some insight on interacting with the younger generation. Here are 3 top tips to help:
Tip #1 Listen
Listening is the most important thing you can do for a young person. It’s one of those things that sounds easy, but so few of us do it well. Listen to understand, not respond – listen with empathy and curiosity, and really try to understand what they are telling you. Try to put your judgements aside and avoid jumping into solution mode.
Tip #2 Validate
Acknowledge their feelings without trying to change them or tell them that they are wrong for feeling that way. Doing this is extremely powerful, because it validates that it’s ok to feel whatever it is that they are feeling. Responses like, “that sounds really hard” or “what’s it like to feel like that?” or “how can I support you?” are much more likely to create connection than telling them not to worry.
Tip #3 Create Space
During school holidays young people typically have less access to those natural mentoring moments – chats with a teacher after class, time with the sports coach etc. At home or at gatherings, it can be hard to find time for meaningful conversations with more people around and all the family at home. It’s a good idea to create space to talk, whether they are small moments or big dates – a walk after dinner, a chat on the couch, a dinner date, a fishing trip or even just time in the car.
Finally, a reminder that it’s really normal for teenagers to withdraw and become more private, it’s part of learning how to navigate this stage of development. Rejection is to be expected, and the best advice is don’t take it personally. Keep knocking on the door – it might not open the first time, the second time, or even the fifth time. But eventually it will open, and in the meantime, you have shown that you care, and that you are not going anywhere – and that is gold.