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How to Talk to Your Anxious Teen: Key Strategies for Parents to Build Trust & Respect

Updated: Feb 17


Communication with teenagers can be challenging at the best of times but especially so when your teen is showing signs of anxiety. As parents, we often find ourselves at a loss for what to do or say to help our teens navigate it. However, effective communication is key to building trust, respect, and a strong relationship with our anxious teens.


In this article, we will explore strategies to learn how to talk to your anxious teen in a way that fosters understanding, and respect and optimizes the chances of them actually hearing you.


"If your teen is not communicating, it’s your communication you’ve got to work on"
 

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Emotional Safety: The Foundation of Effective Communication

Before diving into communication techniques, it is essential to establish emotional safety - for both you and your teen.


When anxiety is high, teens often enter a survival state, feeling threatened and emotionally unsafe. And as parents, we can also fall into survival mode when faced with our teen’s emotional outbursts or stonewalling. It is crucial therefore to recognize our own triggers and regulate our emotions to create a safe space for communication.



Annoyed mum aand son sitting on two separate sofas not speaking to each other

How To Achieve Emotional Safety

Start by becoming conscious of your own emotional responses and the stories you tell yourself about the situation. Reframe any negative stories and focus on the desire to understand and collaborate with your teen. By letting go of unhelpful narratives, you can approach conversations with a calmer and more open mindset.



Finding Common Ground: The Bridge to Effective Communication

To communicate effectively with your anxious teen, it is essential to find common ground. While you may have different goals or desires, there are no doubt shared desires for understanding, a good relationship, and making choices that lead to happiness. Approach conversations to understand and collaborate, rather than pushing for a specific outcome.


 

How Do I Know It's Anxiety....and What the HECK Do I DO?!



 

Simple Steps to Learn How to Talk to Your Anxious Teen


  • When engaging in conversation, apologize if things have been rocky and express your desire to understand and find a way through together.

  • Choose a good time and place where your teen feels relaxed and comfortable, this could be on a walk or during a shared activity, like making cookies.

  • Actively listen to their perspective, validate their feelings, and reflect back what they say to show that you understand.

  • Avoid trying to talk them out of their feelings; instead, focus on deepening the conversation by asking open-ended questions about why they feel as they do.


NOTE: If your teen accuses you of not listening or trying to control them, resist the urge to defend yourself. Instead:


  • Apologize for any misunderstandings and genuinely seek to understand their perspective.

  • Make amends as necessary and assure them that your intention is to be there for them and foster a good relationship.



Mum comforting upset daughter on sofa by putting her hand to her cheek

Patience and Persistence: The Path to Breakthrough

Effective communication takes time and patience. It is essential to recognize that one conversation will not magically solve all the issues. Keep your intention in mind and celebrate small wins along the way. Every time you refuse to take things personally and approach the conversation with understanding, you create a safer space for your teen to open up.



Remember...

Breakthroughs may take time, and your teen will reach the emotional safety set point at their own pace. Be prepared for setbacks and be willing to pick up the conversation again when needed.


By consistently practicing effective communication techniques, you can build trust, respect, and understanding with your anxious teen.


In conclusion, effective communication with your anxious teen requires:

a) establishing emotional safety

b) finding common ground and

c) practicing active listening.


For more tips on how to actively listen, go to the previous article How to Actively Listen to Your Teenager.


By regulating your own emotions, reframing negative stories, and approaching conversations with the intention to understand and collaborate, you can foster a strong relationship with your teen.


Effective communication takes time and patience, but with persistence, you can create a safe space for your teen to open up and find solutions together.

 

What next?

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Join the growing community of parents who are turning the tide on their teen's anxiety! Sign up to the mailing list and become a One in a Million Mum (or Dad) to receive practical strategies and ongoing support. Together we can do this!





 

**Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment


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