Let's first acknowledge that this is EXTREMELY normal. Everyone at some point (or multiple points) in life, teens and adults alike, find themselves spinning their wheels and wondering "what am I doing?" It can feel depressing, and exhausting. We feel you.
That's why we wanted to share this 3 part series based a few of the fundamental exercises we do with our life coaching students. These 3 posts are designed to help you (or to help you guide your teenager) out of a mental rut and offer some practical steps you can follow to start getting excited about your life and rediscovering your purpose.
So let's get started.
One of the main reasons we get stuck in a mental rut in the first place is that we've lost passion or excitement in our lives. This first exercise is designed to help you reignite your excitement for your life, and get you excited about your future.
Step 1. Get out a piece of notebook, open up a document on your computer, whatever you like best...but get ready to write. Without overthinking it, answer these questions for yourself:
Write down your answers. You can keep going as long as you want...the idea is to start DREAMING again. Once your juices are flowing a bit, now we move on to a little more specific:
Step 2. Answer the questions:
What kind of a life would you like to have in five years (or 1 year if 5 is a stretch)? What would be ideal for you? What would that look like?
Think about this question and start writing (again, try not to overthink it...don't police yourself, even if you think it's crazy). If you think it, write it down.
If you're having trouble, step away from writing for a minute. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Really try to visualize yourself as clearly and concretely as possible in your ideal 5-years-from-now situation.
When you have some concrete ideas, write them down. Try to be as specific as possible. Again, try not to let a voice of doubt creep in and tell you not to write something down because "it'll never happen." Silence that voice and WRITE. IT. DOWN.
Step 3. Think about why each of these things are MEANINGFUL to you and what does it say about what you VALUE.
For me, for example, in 5 years I would like to have enough money to be able to spend summers in Brazil, where my husband is from. This is meaningful to me because living in Latin America has always been a dream (even if it's just for a few months a year) and would allow my kids to spend more time with their grandparents and have a first hand experience with their Brazilian side as well. This makes me realize that I value family, providing meaningful experiences for my children, flexibility to be able to leave for 3 months at a time, and being a truly multi-cultural family.
Write all these things down. Think about them. Dream about them. Get excited about what is and what could be. If it takes you several days or even weeks to go through these steps, that's okay. Take all the time that you need. In the next post, we'll provide you with some practical tools for how to work towards making those ideal futures happen.
Until then, just enjoy your renewed excitement about your life!
Alright friends, here we are. The last step in a proven process of how to reduce screaming matches with your teen and make a plan for a great semester (for both of you).
Here's a 3-minute video to help guide you:
So, at this point, your teenager has shared her perspective, you have shared yours. Now, it's time to develop a collaborative solution. A question to pose might sound something like this:
So, we have an issue and we both have different perspectives. What should we do about it?
Here are some tips to develop a plan:
Let your teen give their input first and brainstorm ideas.
Again, the more your teen can feel involved in the solution you create together, the more ownership he or she will have over it, make them more likely to follow whatever plan you collaboratively develop. Let them give ideas, ask clarifying questions, and listen.
Once you've listened, put your input in as well and discuss what would be best so you can both get what you want. You'd be surprised at the creative solutions you will likely develop together.
In the example of Jordan and the phone from previous posts, perhaps Abby has now understood how important it is for Jordan to be able to connect with her friends that she can't see in person, but Jordan also realizes that she doesn't want to have her phone taken away for using it when she's been asked not to.
Together, they decide that, during school hours and homework time, the phone stays in another room. During breaks and after homework is complete, Jordan can have her phone.
Set clear expectations - and consequences.
Once you've come up with a collaborative solutions, make sure it is extremely clear what is expected of each of you - and the consequences for not meeting those expectations. Ambiguity is where things can go south very quickly.
You may even ask your teen what a reasonable consequence could be for not complying with the plan you both have put together...you never know.
In our example that might look something like this:
Jordan is expected to keep her phone in the kitchen while she is doing school and homework in her room. During lunch or a break from class, she may come and use her phone. She can use her phone for an hour after school and then again after her homework is done. If she does choose to use her phone during school or homework, she will lose access to it for the rest of the day.
If an issue arises again, go back to step one...find out why it's not working and listen, then talk, then rework your plan together. This process is a mix of both art and science, and it takes time, so give yourself (and your teen) a lot of grace. But it does help!
In our previous post, we discussed how it's important to let your teen express where they are coming from and practice active listening. Once your teen feels heard and understood (again, it doesn't mean you have to agree with them), they will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
And now, it's your turn to talk. Here is a brief video that lays out how to do that well:
As an example of how this might play out, let's go back to our example of Abby and her daughter Jordan and the saga of the phone.
At this point, Jordan would have expressed to her mom what she was feeling and why and Abby would have listened, asked for clarification, and ensure that she understood where Jordan was coming from. Here are some tips for giving your teen your perspective (without starting a fight):
Tell them what YOU need and why (not what you need THEM to do).
One reason this step of the method is so successful is that you are focusing on what YOU need (just like you asked them what they need), and not telling them what to do.
Let me clarify.
Telling them what THEY need to do might sound like this:
Jordan, I need you to not be on the phone so much because I can't be checking on you all the time. I have to work and wondering if you're on the phone instead of doing your work is really stressful for me.
Telling them what YOU need and why might sound more like this:
So, Jordan, last semester, I was really stressed about how to balance staying on top of all my work and meeting all my deadlines while also helping you with online school. What I really need this semester is know that you have what you need to be successful in school so I can spend my work day focusing on getting my work deadlines met. Does that make sense?
Hear the difference? The second statement takes ownership of what they are personally experiencing and clearly states what they need.
Let the conversation continue as long as it needs. You don't have to agree with one another but you need to come to a place where you can understand and empathize where the other person is coming from.
The final step and last post in this series will show you how to make a clear plan that will make both of your lives a lot easier.
In our last post, we explained the concept around "Plan B" communication strategy, what it is, and why it's so effective. Today, we are going to walk you through the first (and arguably, most critical) step of putting Plan B into action - LISTENING TO YOUR TEENAGER.
Here's a brief video to explain this step:
I'm a very concrete person, so here's an example of how this might actually play out. We’ll use a scenario to make this as practical as possible:
Let’s say Jordan, a 16 year old, is a lot of time on her phone. Her parents have made comments in the past “Jordan, you’re spending too much time on your phone,” or “Don’t you have homework to do?” that has been met with shrugs and no changes in screen time. One night, after dinner, Jordan’s mother, Abby, gets fed up and tells her flat out to turn off her phone. “Why?!” Jordan begins yelling, and a heated argument quickly ensues. Abby ends up taking the phone from Jordan and grounding her from the phone for a week. Jordan storms off and slams the door.
The next few days are tense. Jordan doesn’t talk to mom except for transactional conversations. Abby feels she may have “gone too far” but hold firm to her consequence.
Rough times. The struggle is real, my friends. As the parent of a teenager, you're likely able to relate on some level to this saga. And you've probably tried LOTS of strategies to address it, likely with varying levels of success. Here's how Abby might handle this using Plan B:
First, Let everyone cool down.
Never try to solve a problem when one or both people are angry or emotional. Wait until the situation cools off, or, better yet, until you are in a pleasant moment with the other person. Do what you need to do to calm down (take a walk, remove yourself from the situation for a time, etc.) and give the other person the time and space they need to do the same.
In the scenario of Abby & Jordan, don’t try to solve it right away. It may take a few hours or even days of waiting, but wait for a time when you are together, everyone is in a good mood, and you are doing something you enjoy.
When everyone is calm, casually together and having a good time, bring up the issue.
Maybe Abby could go out for coffee and ask Jordan to come along, or just during casual conversation over dinner or in the car. Begin the conversation with a NON-JUDGEMENTAL open ended question. It may look something like this: “Hey, yesterday you got really upset when I asked you to put your phone away. What was going on?”
Actively listen and ask for clarification.
Once the question is out there, now you listen for understanding (not necessarily agreement, but to get where they are coming from). Let your teen talk about what happened/the issue at hand and why it is a problem for them. Ask him or her questions to understand their side. Practice active listening. If they become defensive or accusatory, don’t dish it back. Try to repeat back what they said so you can really understand where they’re coming from.
(Note that you don’t have to AGREE with what you are saying to acknowledge their feeling). It might look something like this: “So what I hear you saying is….is that right?”
Teens are MUCH more likely to listen if they feel that they have truly been heard and validated....which will take us to the next step, where it's (finally!) you turn to talk! Stay tuned!
If you are the parent of a teenager, you are no doubt familiar with these relics of teenage communication, and parent frustration. Teenagers are notorious for their “minimalist” style of communication with parents, as well as the highs and lows on the teenage “hormonal coaster” that leads to the inevitable verbal spar.
As parents, we feel the weight of responsibility to guide our kids and do our best to set them up for success in all areas of their life. But so many parents we’ve talked to feel that every communication attempt falls on deaf ears. They often come to us at the end of their rope and out of ideas about “how to get their teen to listen.”
There are a lot of tactics and strategies for effective communication. And a lot of them work. But we’ve found that this simple 3-step strategy called "Plan B" is one that works very well for us and the families we work with.
So, to help you and your teen come to a solution that everyone can be happy with, we've developed a series to break down collaborative problem solving with your teen. Today, we'll just be focusing on the rationale behind the Plan B strategy and why it works.
What is "Plan B"?
Plan B is a communication strategy that seeks to develop a collaborative solution to an issue where both parties have "buy in" to the solution they come up with together.
How Does Plan B Work?
As a general rule, as I’m sure you’ve found out a long time ago as parent, teenagers don’t like to be told what to do. As parents, it is our job to enforce boundaries and limited to keep our kids safe, but teens want to feel as though they have a voice in decisions that affect them. That's what makes Plan B so effective - is that it allows teenagers to be an integral part of creating a solution, while also maintaining healthy limits and boundaries as parents.
Here is a brief video describing Plan B in a bit more detail from our Webinar "How To Survive Virtual Learning With Teenagers (Without Losing Your Mind):
In our next post, we'll talk about the first practical step to implementing this strategy and tips for how to do it. Stay tuned!