Archive of ‘Being Present’ category

3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Part 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

One of the biggest no-no’s that parents are regularly committing is making the car a place where they connect with their teen.  Your kiddos rely on you for regular transportation, and in the car, there is nowhere to hide! The car is the perfect place to talk, right?

Imagine your teen’s perspective: she’s been “on” all day at school, learning, working, and socializing.  She had to remember her homework in Algebra, her project from Spanish, and her orchestra instrument.  She took a test in Language Arts and a quiz in World Geography.  Her best friend cried at lunch because her boyfriend was being distant, her friend group had some drama about a SnapChat post gone wrong, and her favorite teacher is out for the rest of the year because her mom is sick. Her head and heart are full from an exhausting day.   She gets in the car at the end of the day and shuts the door, ready to relax. Finally, no one is needing her or asking her to do anything.  

Instead, there you are, eager to talk – “How was your day?” “Did you do well on your quiz?” “Is Sarah still mad at Craig?” “Did you remember your project?”  You may have been thinking about her all day and wondering how she is doing, so when you see her, it feels natural to want to check in about all of these things, to show her you care, and to connect.  

However, it is critical that you give her the time and space she needs to decompress first, and that is different for every teen.  Most of them need at least a few minutes to stare out the window or listen to their music, and many of them need much more than that.  Notice their body language and cues – do they seem eager to talk right now? If not, respect their boundary and wait.  Nothing is worse than feeling cornered, even if you have the best intentions.  

And if you do have something import you need to confront your teen about, say their lack of studying in the evenings or refusal to follow your rule of no food in bedrooms, ask them when a good time would be to talk.  Find them at a neutral time at home, such as after dinner or during breakfast, and say “Hey- I want to check in with you about studying.  Would tonight or tomorrow night be better for you? What time?” Give them choices and some power to say what works for them.  Just because the issue feels urgent to you doesn’t mean it actually IS urgent.  Take a few deep breaths and seek cooperation and connection with your teen, not conflict and control.  

For more insight, consider signing up for our Positive Discipline Workshop for parents of teens and tweens!  Click HERE for more info. To read part 1: Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?, click HERE.


Sibling Rivalry: Tips for Surviving the Summer

Summer break is here, and if your family is like mine, it didn’t take long for the kids to start getting cranky and fighting with each other, stimulating that sibling rivarly. As the long days of summer stretch ahead, do you find yourself wondering how you’ll survive this sibling rivalry until August? Or, more importantly, whether the kids will make it back for the first day of school in one piece?

By: Julia Fazio, LMFT-Associate; Supervised by Billy Lee Myers, Jr, LMFT-S

By: Julia Fazio, LMFT-Associate;
Supervised by Billy Lee Myers, Jr, LMFT-S

I’ve been thinking about some helpful lessons I learned from Susan Stiffelman’s wonderful book Parenting with Presence that might make it easier to negotiate the dog days of summer with your children.

  1. Let tempers cool first. Giving the kids some time to calm down before you address the problem makes it much easier for them to express their perspective on what happened. Make sure this time is not perceived as punishment, but rather as an important time that they need to feel like their best selves.
  2. Congratulate yourself, this is healthy! Children fight because they need to learn something, even if they’d rather not. Fighting teaches them important skills. However, sibling rivalry undermines their healthy relationship. Try to avoid being the judge and instead focus on facilitating. Ask each kid the same question until they manage to come to a resolution. “Why are you upset, Jack? Emma, why are you upset?”
  3. Avoid comparisons. Comparing kids to one another makes them feel unloved and angry, rather than motivated to change their behavior. Comparison might even escalate the fighting. Instead, try to focus on the unique talents of each child using specific praise, like “Wow, you sure are persistent, you have been working on that Lego building all afternoon!”
  4. Be good enough. You don’t need to do a brilliant job every minute of the day. You just need to be good enough. Try to silence those critical voices in your head that are telling you that you aren’t living consciously enough because you yelled at your kids. Give your heart a forgiving pat and start again.
  5. Prevent problems before they happen. Help your children understand their triggers, and the situations that will really upset them or set off an argument. Once they know what situations will lead to disputes, you can help them identify ways to cope or avoid them altogether.
  6. Remember to Breathe. Arguing children can trigger big reactions in parents, especially when the arguing seems to go on all day, every day. It’s important to recognize when you need to step back and take a breath before intervening in a state of high emotion. Even a minute or two of focused deep breathing can calm you down and clear your mind so that you can act versus react to the conflict.

For lots of helpful scenarios written with a great sense of humor, take a look at Sibling without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. And remember, summer will be over before you know it. All the rough spots will smooth over into one happy memory of the time you spent together as a family.


3 Ways to Help Get More Communication from Your Teen

Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me? (Part 1 of 3)

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

I often hear from parents that they wish their teen would open up to them more. Things like…
“Why won’t she talk to me?”
“I try to ask her about her day and she just says ‘fine.”
“My teen would rather put her earbuds in than talk with me.”
“We end up arguing more often than not – help!”

Believe it or not, your teen does want to talk with you! Many times, however, parents are trying too hard to force communication with their teen by giving unsolicited advice, cornering their kids, or blowing up. Let’s talk about a few ways you can change your behavior today to help encourage more open and honest communication with your teen.

“When we give children advice or instant solutions, we deprive them of the experience that comes from wrestling with their own problems.”


― Adele Faber, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

1.) Listen more and talk less with your teen. Avoid all lecturing and advice-giving.

The teenage brain is constantly growing and changing. It is literally wired to take more risk and push away from caregivers. Their brain is actively pruning away unnecessary parts in order to make room for independent thinking and acting.
See this video by Dr. Daniel Siegel for more on the teenage brain

Why, then, would it make sense for us to expect our teens to want our unsolicited advice? Here’s an example of what I often hear in my work with teens and their parents.

Mom: Well, yesterday Jane was crying again about her friends being mean to her. I told her that she should just get some new friends because real friends don’t treat each other that way. She needs friends who are kind and who don’t act so ugly. Then Jane just blew up at me! She told me to get out of her room and leave her alone. Can you believe that?

Does this sound familiar? Are you often giving advice about what your teen should or shouldn’t do to solve problems? Are you consistently feeling frustrated that they don’t do what you suggest? STOP GIVING ADVICE!! Instead, consider these possible responses to open up dialogue:

Reflect what you see: “Jane, something has made you sad.” (then shhhhhh…..don’t talk.)

Act without talking: Rub Jane’s back or knee. Nod sympathetically. Give an encouraging smile.

Use one word responses: “OH!” or “Really?” or “Hmmm…” (and then hush!)

Ask open ended questions: “Then what happened?” or “How do you feel about that?” or “What do you think your options are?”

Be available: If you teen wants to talk, she or he will often let you know nonverbally first (stomping around, crying, heavy sighs). Put down whatever you are doing and turn to face your teen. Pull the car over if you need to. Use your body to show that you are available if they want to talk. A kind smile without words goes a long way.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series –- “Step 2: Make the Car a “Safe Zone”

  1. Why Won’t My Teen Talk to Me?
  2. Make the car a “Safe Zone.”
  3. QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally

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