Creating Safe Space for Talking - Tip #2
Updated: May 25
In the previous post, I talked about staying calm. This is important to remember when leading into tip number two for creating safe space for talking to teenagers. Staying calm will help you to take the time to get this next bit right.
Tip #2 is - NO Judgement.
It is easy to hear something someone says and make judgement. We all do it as part of daily conversation, watching the news, talking about that guy at work and so on. In private conversation it's a given thing that everyone does it but when talking to a teenager about their deepest worries, it could be the very thing that puts up barriers, sometimes even permanently.
Focusing on staying calm, allows you time to think carefully about your response, and avoiding making any judgement. It allows you to formulate a response that will support your teenager's emotional challenges, regardless of what your internal bias may be.
Given that there will be times your teenager may want to plan ahead and you disagree with what they want to do, this is a classic yes/no meltdown situation. You may be right and they are wrong, but making a judgement to their face will still put up barriers.
Instead, try to understand why they've been thinking about things differently to you. Suggest ways they may look at it differently, and even help them find relevant information that will help them change their own mind. Share analogies or stories if needed, but to change their mind about something has to be their decision if it is going to create a stronger bond between you.
If it is about something that has already happened to your teenager, or something they have already done, then sharing judgement will likely leave them feeling shamed, guilty, unworthy, and unsupported. Again putting up barriers for the future, and adding further emotional trauma to an already difficult situation.
If you have made strong negative judgement at the TV about teenagers getting pregnant for example by saying "They should all be #whatever" then your teenager is going to find it difficult to open up and tell you if they fall pregnant. They are less likely to do the right thing whether it's morning after pill, or go to a doctor, and will hide the pregnancy for as long as possible without medical supervision.
On the other hand, if your teenager knows that you are generally supportive of them and on seeing something on TV said 'I think it's bad but if it happened to you I hope you would talk to me.' then they are more likely to turn to you in a time of need. The emotional and physical wellbeing of your teenager and an unborn baby is more important than your own feelings, although your own feelings can feel like they get in the way. That's why it is important to focus on staying calm to avoid judgement. You can contact your local helpline for support for yourself, or I can offer 1-1 mentoring as on my services page.
As in the previous post, this could be judgement about crime, drugs, who their current friends are, the gaming nightmares they play, and the list is endless, but the strategy for coping with it is pretty much the same.
Admittedly there will be an occasional time when you will need to put your foot down and ensure everyone's safety, but that should be an absolute last resort and not a knee-jerk reaction. If a conversation truly comes to this, it needs to be clear that it is to keep them safe, and not because you disagree with something in principal. It is still best to avoid judgement and help them realise that decisions out of their control, are still a form of support.
Look out for the third and final tip next week, or sign up for the newsletter from the home pate, to get the 'Weekly Brain Juice' update from Kay.