Having Influence With Teens Is Essential Both In Therapy And Out
Being close with teens is important, but it’s not the magic sauce. Or perhaps it’s best to say, there’s magic sauce in being close in that it can allow for influence. Influence is where it’s at for any relationship. For therapists, parents and anyone who cares about a teen, the primary question is: how can we influence teens to support them to make good decisions? While that’s also a part of the dialogue with younger children, there’s also an emphasis on influence by authority (i.e. time-outs, laying down the law, etc.). That works less when a kid becomes a teenager. The challenge with teens is to create conditions in which a teenager gives a heck what you think.
What Are Ways To Create Conditions For Influence With Teens?
As a parent, how do you create these conditions? First, it’s important to have interest in and care what teens think–actual care. This starts with investigating and coming to an awareness of what teens are into. Play a video game with your teen, watch a music video or figure out what Snapchat is. And for god’s sake, stop making fun of these things.
In addition, raise issues in a serious way. Say, “I love you and I’m concerned about you.” And finally, hang out–do stuff together. Find things of mutual interest with your teen. It’s important to not make every interaction with a teen about teaching a lesson or sharing a concern.
Good Therapists Not Only Have Influence With Teens But Can Support Parents’ Influence
For therapists, it’s the same. Great therapists are curious. And if you’re a therapist who isn’t able to get excited about what a teenager is into, then you shouldn’t be working with teenagers. As therapists, the first step is often to create conditions in which we can get close and have some influence with teens.
But we’re not interested in just stopping there. Teens need their parents, badly. Parents want to have an influence. There’s a lifelong relationship there with way more value than a therapist could ever provide. We want to support parents to have influence with their teen children. Once we have some influence as therapists, we invite the teen to approach their mom or dad in new ways and find ways of getting closer. Often this involves inviting mom or dad into the therapy room and very often also involves parents being open to being similarly influenced by their teen (and the therapist) as well.