One thing that I am noticing in the practice is that teenagers that have things they want to tell their parents but don’t feel they can. Nothing groundbreaking there, but I was surprised at the main reason why. There are loads of reasons for this like relationship breakdown, lack of or non-communication. But the reason most are giving is that their parents spend so much time on their phones, they don’t feel there is time for them.
Being a teenager is really hard. Yes it can be a time of increased sensitivity, empathy does decrease and emotions run high. This is not easy for them and if supported through this is can make it easier. We know that it can also be hard for the parents, but the parents have the added bonus of having a fully developed and operational brain. A bit like they have all the pieces of a puzzle and their children haven’t developed that part of their puzzle yet. So as adults (myself included) it might be useful if we use the phones when our children aren’t there. With suicide and self-harm on the rise being available to our children so we can validate their emotions and experiences is so important. They need us to help them navigate the difficulties they are experiencing. And to help them navigate with empathy, sympathy, strength, love and compassion. Now this can be hard work, especially when fielding a torrent of anger, frustration and anxiety. But it is important and necessary to help our children feel emotionally safe when they experience it and when they come out the other end. They are looking for help in learning how to communicate, how to have difficult conversations and how to get their views across.
And putting the phones to one side can be hard as they have become such a huge part of life. But it’s important to remember that everything that we do is mirroring life to our children – guiding and shaping their brains and experiences. If we want our children to be able to communicate and relate to other people and themselves we can show them how to do this. One way to do this is to put the phones to one side and dedicate some time to being available.