In our Family, we see each other as Supportive, Available and Reliable
- Adolescents rarely say when they want to talk or need us. We need to give our children clear signals that we have time for them and want to spend time with them Offer low level conversation openers, for example “Do you want a cup of tea?” or “How was your day?” Offer snippets which indicate you have time to talk with them; for example: “Do you know what happened to me today?” “I had an interesting conversation with someone earlier…”
- Model asking for support. For example: ask your children to help you cook dinner when you are particularly tired, or ask them to explain something to you that you don’t understand. Demonstrate how asking for support can be an act of courage, honesty and motivation, rather than vulnerability or weakness.
- Be as reliable as you can. Be careful not to make promises you cannot keep; turn up when you say you will, and apologise when late. Having modelled reliability, assert it as a family quality; look to develop it as a characteristic that is valued and affirmed, not taken for granted.
- When your children face a challenge acknowledge their fears or anxieties, whilst also developing their resilience. For example: “These are normal feelings to have in this sort of situation. I know you can do this. What support do you need from me to help you get there?”
- Notice the particular cues that suggest your children are struggling. Who gets moody? Who withdraws? Who gets angry? Rather than respond to the observable behaviour, notice and acknowledge the feeling driving the behaviour. For example “Seems like it’s been a tough day today?” or “I can see you’re frustrated about something.” Follow up with a supportive comment such as “I’m around if I can help at all” or “What you need from me right now?”
- Model using a wide range of emotional vocabulary in your family to help your children recognise the normal emotions of adolescence. Adolescent may latch on to some feelings such as anger and boredom. When you see these feelings, acknowledge and validate the feeling that may be driving the observable emotion. For example: “I am not surprised you are angry, you must have felt very embarrassed when they laughed at your mistake.”
- Notice the signs when your children are emotionally ‘full up’. Introduce the metaphor of a feeling balloon; a balloon where they hold all their uncomfortable feelings. Holding onto those feeling can be stressful – imagine trying to keep the air in a balloon by holding the bottom tightly. How might that feel? Sometimes we can’t do it anymore and we lose control. When you notice your children feeling strained, guide your children towards healthy releases such as going for a run, talking to someone, listening to music, mindful breathing or having a bath.