Are you also constantly checking it?
We are all seeking connection right now because being separated from our ‘tribe’ is and always has been, inherently ‘dangerous’.
So here are some tips, some ideas to try.
- Instead of restricting your teen, allow them to spend as much time on their social media as they need.
But if you could eat cake all day, it palls after a while and you seek some variety and other ways to meet the same need.
Experiment, if you allow your teen to be on social media as much as they want, will they tire of it and come downstairs seeking some ‘real’ conversation? Will they hear you and the rest of the family laughing at a comedy on TV and wonder what you’re watching? Will they hear you chatting in the kitchen and be curious, are you talking about them?
Draw them to you rather than insist on their presence.
2. Introduce them to the idea of boundaries to keep them safe on social media
Boundaries are when we know when something is inappropriate, rude, unkind, not acceptable, hurtful, just plain ‘wrong’.
It is about knowing when to say ‘no’.
Teens can be very reactive, responding quickly and impulsively to what they read or see online. Talk to them about how to stop and put in a pause before responding. You can do this best by talking about your own experiences. Maybe comment on how your boss or a friend said something you didn’t like and you were just about to say something to them, but you stopped and realised that maybe they were stressed out from juggling homeschooling and work, or worried about their child/mum/partner, or worried about their job or money and when you realised that they probably didn’t mean it, you felt compassion for them and replied quite differently.
Your teen is still a child, they are still learning emotional intelligence, they are novices in the world of grown up concerns and they need to be shown rather than told.
Talk to them about times they aren’t sure how to respond, what to think and what to do and ask them how they could stop, come away from the phone and just think for a moment or two on their options of how to respond.
In NLP one of the ‘beliefs of excellence’ is ‘the person with the most flexibility controls the system’ and this means that when we only have two options; do it or not do it/ do this or do that, we don’t have much control over the outcome. If instead, we have a number of options for example, asking
- did you mean what you said?
- are you Ok?
- do you need a (virtual) hug?
- shall we go for a walk and talk this through?
- I’m here for you
- you seem really mad right now, can I help?
Boundaries are about staying safe, not being drawn into things that aren’t their business, or their responsibility.
Boundaries are about knowing when to turn the phone off and go for a walk, come downstairs, go to sleep or whatever they need to do to be calm.
Knowing who to contact if they’re worried I have spoken with teens who are supporting friends who are drinking themselves unconscious, cutting themselves, sending pornographic images, and things they are not equipped to deal with. Does your teen know what to do in these circumstances? They may not want to tell you but their school will have a safeguarding officer, counsellor, someone who is trained to help and will not divulge who has alerted them.
When your teen sees anything that alarms them, they need to have someone outside the family to speak to about it. There are agencies such as Child Line, Samaritans and so on and there will be specialist agencies for grief, support through cancer etc as well as local support groups your teen can turn to.
Make sure they have a list, they might need it themselves.
3. Ease off on the schoolwork This is not the time to do what they ‘have to do’ there are already so many things they can’t do that they want to do. Teens are responding by controlling the few things left such as refusing to eat, sleep, work. These are all ‘away from’ activities in NLP and they are detrimental to mental health.
Instead focus on what they want to do (that they can do) even if they want to bake a cake, chat to their friends. A happy teen is far more likely to get their work done than one who is being nagged and is unhappy.
Encourage them to focus on subjects or topics they like and do them, maybe once they’ve done those they can tackle the subjects they are less keen on or find difficult.
4. Walk and talk
They love you and need your support so find ways to give this in a way that they will find easier than stilted direct questions in their bedroom ‘we need to have a talk’. You know what I mean. I’ve had a number of mums telling me that this is what they’re doing and it doesn’t work, but they keep doing it.
Go for a walk. Teens talk best when they’re doing something else. I run walking therapy sessions with teens and these work really well. They can stomp out their anger, walk fast to express frustration, walk slowly for calm, find metaphors in the clouds, the trees and buds coming out and in the silence where you hold space for them, you build trust so they can come to you when they need to.
Encourage them to walk with a friend.
5. Be the change
Put your phone away when they are there, keep phones in bags and show that you want to connect, you are available and want to hang out with them. Encourage them to do things with you, like cooking or baking, sorting out family photos, rearranging a room, playing a game and eating together.
How can we tell them to put their phone away when ours is out?
How can we stop them taking calls when we do, even if we excuse ourself because it’s work?
In those moments, we are saying that what you have to do is more important than them. Of course that isn’t the case but their ego is quite fragile, much more so than might appear on the surface as they rant at you.
They need to know they matter, they are important and that you love them.
6. Love languages We all experience love differently and different actions will fill our ‘love tank’.
Here’s a link to Gary Chapman’s Love Language quiz for teens
Your teen will be missing the banter or friends (it just isn’t the same on zoom as we all know) the hugs and squeezes, the laughter and the comfort of a shared groan when the teacher says something annoying.
Does your teen need more hugs and touch right now. Mine does (don’t tell him I told you!) I take every opportunity to touch his shoulder or back as I pass, smile, acknowledge him and listen, I want him to feel loved as he only sees his friends on screen.
Do they need words of affirmation? Do they need to be told they are amazing, that they are doing so well, that you are so proud of them, that what they have to say is interesting/funny/insightful?
Do they need things done for them, acts of service, their special treat for dinner, an unexpected cake or snack, a bit of help with an assignment?
Would a gift cheer them up? Many teens like to exercise and there are plenty of small bits of gym equipment they could have in their room to keep up their exercise or fitness regime or would they like a book, a game, new shirt, boxers with funny (embarrassing mum) slogan on?
The last one is ‘quality time’ and that is often what teens tell me they want more than gifts from their parents. Choose something they will find fun, something active and easy to set up.
Find fun games, even games they might have played when they were younger. My kids introduced us to ‘utensil jenga’ where you each choose a utensil from the kitchen and have to remove a jenga block with it. It was great fun.
Get outside to play games or exercise together.
Even if you don’t rate my ideas or think your teen will groan and return to their phone, you know them and will be able to come up with ideas that will appeal to them.
It’s much harder to get a teen OFF their phone than it is to get them to DO something a bit fun and different. Why would they come off their phone when there is nothing else on offer for them to do? Work on ‘towards’ messages, drawing them to you subtly rather than tell them to get off their phone and make sure they have boundaries they can apply to keep them safe when they are on their phone because they do need that connection with friends right now…………..as do we.
Understanding children and teens - a practical guide for parents, teachers and coaches
A signed copy of Judy's new book with shipping included.
Understanding Children and Teens shows the reader how to use Neuro Linguistic Programming, Emotional Freedom Technique, and Art Therapy in order to connect with children and teens to help them conquer their problems. With clear explanations, examples, and easy-to-follow exercises, this book will enable those who care for children to gain valuable insight into their world, and to understand what they are thinking and feeling. It will give children the means to believe in themselves with unconditional love and acceptance, empowering them to achieve all they wish for in life.
This practical guide is aimed at parents, teachers, coaches, and everyone who works with children and teens and is informed by the author's experiences of working with this group over the last 30 years.
Judy Bartkowiak is an NLP trainer and coach as well as an EFT trainer and coach who specialises in working with children and teens. Before becoming a therapist, she worked in children's market research. She has written extensively on NLP. This is her first title for Free Association Books.
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