Remember those years when your child followed you everywhere, and gazed at you with adoring eyes because you knew everything? Have they now turned into a teenager who simply grunts, or screams at you, when they occasionally emerge from their bedroom?
Changes in a teenage brain help them to develop abstract thinking and self-reflection but they also make them hyper-critical and keen to develop emotional distance so they can practice life without you around.
What to do: Daniel Siegel says we need to teach them to have reflective conversations:
How to do it: JoAnn Deak - Girls will be girls.
Techniques: Parent Gym based on how to talk so your kids will listen...
When to do it?
Books, and materials, we've referenced:
Tangling with your teenager
Helen wrote 'My sixteen year old is dating and says he’s in love. What do I do if he brings her home and wants her to stay the night? Do I put them in the same room, or separate them?'
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Hello, I'm Rachel Richards and welcome to teenagers untangled where we combine research by experts and ideas from other parents to solve your problems. As a parenting coach, I saw the incredible power of getting people together to share ideas and support each other. So welcome, put up a chair, and let's begin. In this episode, we talk about Helen's dilemma her 16 year old son is in love, and she's worried about how she should deal with him wanting to have sex. But first how to listen so that your team will talk and talk so that your team will listen with me to help us tackle these topics again is Susie Azmi, who is a teacher of mindfulness and mother to three teenagers, including twins. Hi, Susie, thanks for being here with us. Hi, Rachel. Remember those distant days when your child gazed at you with adoring eyes chatted nonstop, and even listened when you talk to them. It can feel very upsetting when your teenager descends into the language of grunts and silks, and much of that from behind their bedroom door. But don't panic. According to Daniel Siegel, in the book, brainstorm the excess neurons that have built up during early childhood. And now being actively pruned. The good thing is that teenagers are now able to develop abstract thinking and self reflection. The bad thing about it is having to live with someone whilst all that's going on. Now let's start with getting your child to listen Susie, how do you do it? Well, in my experience, it feels very different with my kids, the boy and girl element. And I have had to learn and haven't been very good at not talking too much myself. And I find with with my boys, particularly my eldest, I will explain things like nausea, and I've lost him literally by sentence too. And he's become they both become very good at looking like they're listening. Even answering. This is where those skills come from. Yeah. Yeah. And but it actually hasn't heard any of it. So I've had to learn how to get to the point. And how do you do? What do you do? Well, um, we had some issues, my eldest, unfortunately had lots of back issues. And there were lots of things that we had to discuss together like doing physio taking care of himself, like lots of boring things I had to keep bringing up and I was losing him by sentence too. So I suddenly thought, I know what I'll put a time limit on it. So I asked him, I think we were in one of those car journeys where you're talking and he's trapped and listening. Or just trapped. Actually, I know. I said, How about if I put a two minutes time limit on it? And when I get to the end of two minutes, if even if I'm not finished, I have to stop fan tastic. And I literally saw his shoulders go down and he went, Oh, man, that would be great. for married couples across the country thinking yeah, I think I'm gay to buy time. Yeah. And honestly, it's really good. Because a it makes me focus because I can go on and on and on. And be he sort of agreed to listening to those two minutes, because he knows he's got to concentrate. But it's only two minutes. Yeah. And sometimes I get to the end, and I go, I've gone over, haven't I or and he Oh, he'll go on. That's way longer than two minutes. You got to stop now, because we have the agreement. Okay, thanks. And I find that I quite enjoy putting the radio on in the morning, I put it on the Today program because they are covering the news. And you know, just the other day, my one of my children said, Sorry, what's cladding? And the story was about the Grenville tower, as I said, it's used sometimes talk about what goes around pipes, but it's in this context, it's used on buildings. And then I thought, How do I make this interesting, and I talked about these poor people whose lives have been upturned and how they've bought properties. And now they can't sell them on because of the cladding issue. And what was amazing about it was it encompassed all sorts of things. And it was the general knowledge learning experience. without it feeling like that. We just chatted five minutes actually gets here's something that's interesting, oh do they get the more you can have these kinds of conversations. And the book by Daniel Siegel talks about teaching your child to have reflective conversations. And when we're talking about reflective conversations, we mean those ones where we speak, without filtering our feelings, and our thoughts to kind of letting things out brainstorming. And he says, there have been numerous brain studies showing that when we do this particular thing, either with somebody else listening, or you can do it in your head, it stimulates the integration of the prefrontal cortex where planning and problem solving takes place. And it allows us to tune into others and it generates empathy and as an example of the way that you might do this, he says, If you lost your temper with your teenager, go away. Think about what happened there. Why did you get to that point? What preceded it, what else was happening in your world? It sounds quite arduous to some people, but it's Actually method of thinking that's very powerful. And then go back and talk to your teenager about it, choose your moment, but give them an opportunity for you to say, I'm really sorry, this was what was going on, what you're doing is you're showing them how to go through that process, and then apologize if you need to apologize. He says, we as parents need to try and teach this to our children. I think that's really, really important. And it's a massive part of mindfulness as well, you know, an awareness of what's going on, what do we get, we all get triggered by stuff, we will react, of course, we do human beings, especially with our kids, but to be able to then go away and go, Okay, what happened there? And then to voice it with your kid? And then we do that regularly. Of course, you know, of course, we lose our temper with each other. We, you know, we're family. I actually had an episode the other day with with my eldest on the phone, and we were disagreeing about something. And actually, then he texted afterwards and went, Oh, I'm sorry. I felt attacked. And then I could reply and go, Oh, thanks for sharing that. Yes, I was attacking you. Sorry. And this is why, because I felt that and then we kind of checked in with each other. Okay, you go do good. Yep. Good, done, finished. Amazing. That's amazing communication, that he's able to actually say that I felt I was feeling attacked. And then you're able to say, Yeah, okay, I was doing that. And, and that's something we can all try and reach towards Joanne D in girls will be girls has a fantastic explanation of how this can work. So she says, we often when we are talking with our teenagers, we can often assume or jump in. So they start saying something, and you are either busy, or you kind of feel like you know, you've been there. So you jump in and assume that you know what they're talking about. That's very, very upsetting for somebody who thinks well, no, that wasn't it. But then they just think I'm not going to tell you because you're not interested. And then if you have opened up, she says don't go straight into that fixing mode, give them some space to explore what they're saying. So encourage them to open up a bit more about what they actually mean, because sometimes they'll have got to something, but they're not there yet. And you're trying to model that sort of research that kind of searching around rummaging around that reflective thought. And she was this elite gray areas, you don't have to have an answer to everything. You don't have to tell the teenager, what the answers are. Let them try and figure this stuff out. Because again, that's part of the whole job of being an adult. And the time when you can be very helpful is when you discuss the strategies for action. So once they got to a stage where they figured something out, and they said, and then you can say, so what are you going to do? So let's say the child is failing and their exams and you say, so what are you going to do? They say, Well, I think I might leave school, don't panic, you know, you have to keep a totally straight face. And don't catastrophize it to use your term that you use last time. Give them a chance to stand next to you and stare over that precipice. Oh, okay. Yeah, you could you could lose schools. So what? When you get a job? Are you going to move out now? How's this going to work? And just let them talk about it? Yeah, I think for me, always the the point of it all is, is connection. Right? We're trying to connect with our kids. And sometimes that goes well, and sometimes it doesn't. But rather than it being, you know, a teachable moment, and whatever that looks like, it's a, you know, genuine, authentic connection. So when they come with something that maybe is something that feels difficult, that we are, you know, genuinely trying to unpack it with them. What do you mean by that? What's that? About? What? Because, I mean, we all hate being fixed. And I certainly do, and I hate it when someone's not really listening. And you could smell a teachable moment a mile off, you know, when your parents have zoned in and going, Oh, I know how to fix this. And you just stop. It's a new feeling for them. So to have somebody sort of step in and say, oh, yeah, I've, I've done all this before, it kind of just takes all the wind out of their sails fix it because they're frightened. Yes, yes. Because the parents frightened and we very often are frightened by the things. But one of the things that she also said in the book is that we shouldn't be afraid to give our moral or philosophical bottom line and be definite about that be black and white about certain things, because so much of life is gray, that actually having a parent who says, you know, this is not acceptable. That makes them feel much more safe and comfortable. I agree with that. Sue, those who are listening may well be thinking, Okay, that sounds sounds like it works. But how do I actually go about doing that with my tools, wonderful thing is that parent gym, which I used to coach for, and she summarized, and there were two techniques. One is the super silence, and the other is the act of listening. And these may not come readily to us, but actually they're quite simple and easy so practicing them will not be that dumb. Go. So what we'd like to do is roleplay so that you can hear inaction the way that sometimes preaching and judging and jumping in too quickly, can shut down a conversation, which could have been a really, really useful opportunity. So Tom wouldn't meet up with me today. He never does what I say, Well, maybe you should try compromising. I don't want to compromise. I hate him. Don't be such a spoiled brat. I'm not a brat. He's a brat. You're being really immature. Oh, I'm not you don't understand. You're so old and stupid. Don't you speak to me like, that's fine. I'm going to my room. What's wrong with my child, this is an example of how you can go from the child actually coming to you and saying something that could have been a useful opportunity to discuss things and understand your child to being catastrophe catastrophic. So what we're going to do is try that in a slightly different way. So the super silence is where you say nothing, and you just make noises. So you'll just say, Oh, interesting, or, you know, just little, little responses. And then the active listening is where you try to summarize what you've just heard to, you're sort of here. And then they'll either say, yeah, that's it all. They're saying that's not really it. And they may well then work it out themselves. Very similar to mindful listening, mindful communication. Is that right? Yeah, really. So just engaging, you're trying to listen and to connect, rather than to answer and fill in the gaps. And give your opinion. So Tom wouldn't meet up with me today. He never does what I say. Yeah, he said, I was trying to boss him around. So I just hung out on my own. What was that? Like? Oh, it was rubbish. Interesting. Yeah, he's my best mate. If we don't hang out, I'll be on my own. What would that be like? Rubbish? Maybe I should let him decide what we do sometimes. Yeah, maybe. So there is an active role, but it feels passive to the person who's talking the teenager. They feel like they're just able to have space. Sometimes my daughter says, mommy Don't Don't say any. Just let me think this through. Yeah. And they can unfold it themselves and sort of hear, hear what they're thinking themselves. And don't be afraid of that silence. Those moments where you think, isn't anyone saying anything? And the next question is when when do we do this? So all of these things I've put in the BuzzFeed write up of this if you want to have prompts and things, but in terms of when we do this, when do you find the most useful period Susie for? If it's something specific, I want to discuss with them? Or if they come to me with something? Yeah, I guess. They come whenever they ready. But if I want to discuss something, then cars, car journeys are the best. Thank god. Okay, brilliant. Because there's this say moving. Yeah. This is safe space where there's no eye contact. And it's a finite amount of time, they know it's going to end at some point where they can jump out. I think they're brilliant. My eldest, often late at night is he suddenly wakes up and wants to fry up my mommy to sit on the bed and say good night. Yeah. And you have to pick these moments, because they might not come for another few days. So and I think you have to fight for those moments in your week. I'm not saying day because sometimes we can't see each other regularly. But meal times. I had one parent on my calls, who said he likes fixing bikes with his son. And he said, we talk about everything. So actually doing something where you're working together, these are really special moments when you can have those conversations, Doug walks walking to the station, I walked through, I walked to the station, well, part of the way to the station with two of my kids in the morning as well. One of them, the other ones usually like running behind the ones. One of my favorite things to ask them is what's the gossip? I love asking them what's going on? At school? They know that I'm not going to tell anybody else but it's really the salacious chitchat that's been going on. And also, what music are you listening to? You know, they're walking around with some air pods in or their headphones on? And often they say to me, oh, no, you won't like it. It's boring. And I say, No, no, no, no. Just let me listen. And I think if we take seriously this in the minutiae of their life, then when something is important, then they're much more likely to come. We have that in the summer where we had a really old broken car with only radio and then we had a new car which had Bluetooth, and we drove all the way to Lake District. And I was like, Wait, guys, put your music on let's have a listen. And it was amazing. It was so much fun. Yeah, my boys like grime. But it was lovely to hear and then to share and talk about what kind of things they've done. It was really nice, how amazing and my friend's son. He lives in London and he's fully grown Northface EarPods sucking his teeth listening to grime and shabby. Listen. And then she turned to him and said, Oh, you like? Brilliant? Yeah, I got told off for trying to sing along, because I'm obviously not very cool. Yeah, there's a limit. So we'd love to hear your thoughts on this segment. Do you struggle to communicate with your teenager? Do you find yourself grinding your teeth with frustration at times? Or are there any particular techniques or times that you find it really helpful? Please get in touch? Our email address is help at teenagers untangled.com. Sex. Now I've got your attention. And Helen had ours when she sent us this question. My 16 year old is dating and he says he's in love. What do we do? If he brings her home and wants her to stay the night? Do I put them in the same room or separate them? I'm just not ready for this. Well, I have had this experience and I have permission to talk about it. He said he didn't really care. This is why it's so valuable on this. Well, my my nurse 16, he's 16. And he Yeah, he was 16 when he asked her. And so she importantly, and he has a girlfriend who lives quite a long way away. So travel is difficult for them. They they're very happy to do it. But it takes a while. So traveling late at night was particularly challenging for her because it's dark, etc. Going on trains. So earlier than they otherwise would have done. They wanted to. She wanted to spend the night he sleeps in our old garage, it's been converted. So we communicate often via Alexa, which further work. He thinks it's brilliant. So he at 10 o'clock at night he he dropped into me in the kitchen saying oh, can can wake up and stay over on Saturday. And AI was sort of ready for bed and thinking, Well, I don't really want to have this conversation right now. And and, and be I said, I'm certainly not having this conversation over Alexa. So that's talk about it tomorrow. Let's and I didn't react to what I just said. Okay, well, let's have a think. And we'll talk about it tomorrow. And I could then go Oh, that's it wasn't expecting that and could actually think about what how I wanted to answer it. And my philosophy is and always has been about that would be, I want them to feel safe. I want them to feel comfortable. Eldest is pretty headstrong. So whatever he's going to do, he's going to do so I can make it safe and nice and nurturing for them. Or I can not, and they're going to do it anyway. And it might be dangerous, it might be uncomfortable, it might be not a very pleasant experience. So I said, I thought that would probably not be what I would have chosen. It's probably earlier than I would have chosen. But my caveat was I need to speak to the girl's mother we'd hadn't met because they live a little while away. So hello, my name is Susie ously. And we haven't met but could my son. Yeah, pretty much that was how it went. And interestingly, my son was like, really, really do you have to? And I was like, Yeah, that's a non negotiable. If you want this to happen, I need to have that conversation. So if I don't, then it's not happen. So by the end of that day, I had the number. And I did and it was literally like that I rang her up lovely, lovely lady. And we had a very fun, nice conversation. It was it was fine. And she had an a chat, daughter, and we worked it out. It was a very much a joint decision. And I also thought, you know, if you do the separate rooms, which is also absolutely and I'm not absolutely not judging anyone who does this differently at all, this was just what worked for us, they're gonna sneak around, and I was not willing or thinking it was appropriate to be policing, anything like that, you know, because they'll do what they're gonna do. So it's worked, and it wasn't weird. And it's it's an they've been together for a year now. So, and I love what you said about checking in with the other parent. And this is something that is, in my opinion, as well critical major decisions into teenagers lives. And I think it's it's disrespectful to allow anything to happen in your house without checking in with a parent first, we also had an awkward conversation. While I don't I didn't think it was awkward, but my son would almost certainly say it was you know about contraception about what do you know, how are we going to manage this? And we had that conversation and that was short. I think that's perfect, because I mentioned it to my daughter and she said, Mommy, what would you do? And I said, Look, I think if you're old enough to have a girlfriend, go to parties, or have someone staying over, you're old enough to have adult conversations about sex. And that covers things like a sexual health check. Now, these are young children, hopefully both virgins, but it's actually still worth bringing up the question of sexual health and that if you're going to visit a new partnership, you really should both get checked to make sure it's one of them. That doesn't happen Vinny or disease I've got a friend many years ago who had first sexual relationship, he gave her a venereal disease that she can she's had for the rest of her life. So, you know, this is one of those things where it's worth flagging up. Because otherwise, if you've never mentioned it and something happens, then you'll look back and think, maybe I should have said something. I think it's worth remembering that you know, the contraception when you're talking about it to me, I would want to, actually, so it's a boy in this example, I would say, so what would happen if she said, she's using contraception? And then she forgets? And then now she's pregnant? How would you feel about that? How would you deal with having to go to an abortion clinic with her? If that's what she chooses? How would you feel about her deciding that she's going to keep it and you're now a 16 year old boy who has a baby in the world to your name? Or 17? It'll be 17. By then. But you know, how would that work for you? So rather than saying, Oh, are you going to use contraception is actually saying, so this, this is the result of not using contraception. So just think about that. And, and then I'm leaving, I'm not going to pry, I'm just going to say, Here are the options and we're going to make sure that you're safe, you need to make sure you're checking in with her and talking about making the girl feel happy. And seeing you know, every stage where you were going a little bit further, you see okay with your right, because she's gonna love you for it. So this is the thing that guys don't know is that actually, if you're responsible and responsive, you probably get further. Yeah, we get it. We had a chat as well. And we talked about, about what sex is, you know, it's, it's between people who love each other, and they've been they've been each other for a while. But it's a really beautiful connection. It's not just, you know, sex. And yeah, no, that was really important for that. I felt that was really important that he understood that. I mean, how much he did, I'm not sure. But we had the conversation. And then he did it did resonate. Another interesting side of this is, what does your partner feel? Because of course, you're parenting on your own. So you were left to have to deal with this all on your by yourself. Yeah. And so you know, there's the other parents that have parents who need to be considered and included in this decision making. There's your own feelings about, you know, morals, religion, anything, you know, that has to be taken into account. If you're unhappy about anything happening in your house, you need to explain to your child, why just just give them a real sense of why this matters to you, because there's nothing wrong with having that conversation. But just remember, they may well go and do it somewhere else, as you said, but they probably also respect our opinions. I mean, I have absolutely no judgment for anyone or however they dealt with any of that. Because we have very different morals, we have very different ideas as to what's right, what's wrong, what's okay. But as you say, it's communicating that and and first of all, tuning in what do I think what is okay? Rather than a knee jerk reaction to any of it? What are my values and then communicating them? And I think it's worth doing that before you get confronted with this because this poor lady has obviously, she started to see the dragon or coming towards her was amazing is that he's talking to her. Wow, well done great parenting because you've got a son who's even expressing these feelings. So don't panic. You're doing so well. There's an open communication there. He's not gone or sneaked off and done something or dropped in on Alexa. Alexa, Can't hear you right now. Alexa? Oh, it's, it's not working. It was interesting, because I mentioned it to my husband thinking we very, very similar in the way that we see things. And he said, I wouldn't be comfortable. And I say interesting why? And he said, because I don't want to accelerate something beyond where it should be. So I wouldn't want to put them in that situation where maybe they're saying, Oh, yes, we want it. And then suddenly, they think actually, this isn't what we wanted? or would this something rather fun about sneaking around? Yeah, interesting point, though. I mean, we'd like to think that they'd be sort of mature enough to just, you know, do whatever they feel to be right. But I think he had those years when he was a teenager having to sneak around in his parents house. And that was rather exciting. And so maybe he's like, Well, and one last point about this that really made me stop and think was when I was talking to another mother whose son is in this age range. She said, You do realize don't do that when they turn 16 You have no access to their GP records. So you have no control, they can go to their GP and ask for any kind of help. They can ask for the morning after pill they're going to you will not have access. So it's very well worth having these conversations before. I'm realizing that if you come down hard on a teenager who's moving in that direction, you may find that they shut you out Yeah, and I wanted I've said to my my finance and to her that she's really lovely. You know if there's any I want them to feel that if there is an issue if there's a problem whatever however big however small that you know, my door is open they can they can discuss it and and you know, they think it's a little bit awkward maybe but I really hoping I think they weren't, you know, if something happened, they would be a feel they could have that conversation because it's been an open it's been a hopefully a nurturing space. Sure, sure. Perfect. So, next week we're going to tackle the tricky subject of 16. Since we let's stay on the sex, who's doing it? What are the issues and how to talk to your teenager about it? And we do with Mark's question, what do I do about pocket money for my teenager? He's asking for an allowance, but I already seem to be spending a fortune on him. While he doesn't really appear to understand the value of things. What would you advise mark? You can reach us by using the email help at teenagers untangled.com or join our discussion forum on Facebook. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast and tell your friends. Thanks for listening. Until next time, Goodbye.