Guide to Dealing with ‘Hard to Reach’ Teens
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Teenagers don’t want to talk about a lot of things with their parents, so don’t embarrass yourself (and them!) by bringing up the topic out of the blue. You’re more than likely going to be ignored or ridiculed, neither of which will get you any closer to your goal. In order to get into the mind of a teenager, you need to use tactics that encourage them to open up without them initially realising. Make it conversational, so that they aren’t aware of the therapeutic agenda behind it.
When you see something on the news that they might relate to, ask them their opinion.
Show them that you care about what they have to say on the subject. There is nothing a teenager loves more than being made to feel like they’re being treated sincerely and as an adult.
E.g. “Did you hear about the stabbing in London the other day?”
- What did you think about what happened?
- Who do you think this might affect?
- Why do you think people result to violence/ use weapons?
- Where does this leave the attacker/ victim?
- How did you feel about it?
You’d be surprised by their answers. I once spoke to a 15-year-old who had been caught carrying a knife. I asked him this question in class. He said that people who use weapons are cowards… We had an interesting conversation!
You might not believe it, but teenagers want to hear your stories.
They want to know how you felt when you were a teenager. They want assurance that they are normal and not alone. They’ve boarded the roller coaster ride of puberty and now they need you to help them learn throughout this important transition into adulthood. It’s also nice to assure them that you haven’t always been so old and boring! As humans, we are constantly learning from each other. As adults, it is important that we assure teenagers that they can make mistakes. Share past experiences of when you felt shame, fear or confusion whilst growing up. From letting them know you’ve dealt with bullies, to sharing the story about that time you got taken to the police station – you’re making yourself relatable.
Share how scared you were and how you felt throughout the whole experience. You can tell them that at first the thrill of being a rebel was exciting and you loved the reputation! But also tell about how your ‘friends’ only cared for a day or so, whilst your parents cared for a lot longer. So much so, you were grounded for months…
If you weren’t naughty, share with them how you were shy. If you weren’t shy, share with them how you were confused. Any story from your youth that shows you overcame something will be beneficial and make you seem much more approachable.
Make yourself vulnerable.
I told my students that I used to get called ‘Poo-Stain-Face’ by my siblings when I was younger, because I have a birthmark next to my eye. Yes, they laughed. Yes, they called me it for a while. But they also told me names they’ve been called and opened up to me. We spoke about how we deal with ‘banter’ and had an important conversation about the line between jokes and bullying.
Let them tell you their stories. This is important. If they tell you something – listen. They might ask your opinion and in this time, you can share and relate. You might tell them that you’ve never had anything like that happen and you’re keen to know how it was for them. Teenagers are impulsive and spontaneous. Once they’ve said something in the moment, you might not to hear it again! So if they do, seize it and talk about it. When you’ve got them in that moment, you’re the chosen one. You’re the one they want to talk to about it. You can then gage who wants you to add your input and who just wants you to listen.
Have you ever watched a really good documentary that has changed your view on the world? Have you ever watched an episode of ‘How it’s made’ and discovered a new interest? Have you ever seen a nature documentary and sat in awe? Share it all.
Documentaries are incredible and can be used as lessons in disguise. Become fully aware that every child is different. We all have different interests and abilities and that is what makes humans so incredible. Some teens may not be academic, so share your skills in how to fix an engine or how to grow tomatoes! Photograph nature and visit farmyards. Animals are proven to calm and are often used in therapy with ‘hard-to-reach’ children. Show a film that highlights the negative impacts of weapons on the street. Show them that mother crying for her son. All too often, these kids trail onto these paths in life with absolutely no idea of what they’re getting themselves in for. Expose the truth. Make it real.
However– Always end on a positive. Don’t be scared of showing the brutality of gangs, the issues people endure in real life & the effects of negative behaviours. This is important to really engage and teach. Trouble is, we are bombarded with news stories of terror, hate and violence every day. The media thrives on terror.
End on a high. Show them videos of young entrepreneurs, people who have made environmental breakthroughs, animals coming back from near extinction and the simple effects of human kindness – There’s plenty out there!
Guest Article by Katherine DymondClick below to join our survey panel! Earn CASH, give your opinion, and have a voice from home!
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