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How Can I Assist My Teen With Cognitive Restructuring?

Anxiety in Children and Adolescents: How to Recognize It and How to Help


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Work Together

View each situation as an opportunity to work together on common goals. Convey to your child that you are in it together. Try to compromise. For example, "We both want you to be able to play video games, so in order to do that, you need to clean up your room.

Train Your Teen to Empathize

Help your teen to identify their own feelings, but also the feelings of others. When they are able to put themselves in someone else's shoes, they may gain a new perspective.

Allow Constructive Debate

Adolescents often like to debate. This can be done constructively.

When debating:

  • Set ground rules. Parents and teens should take turns expressing their thoughts, feelings and opinions, and in a respectful manner. Respectful communication is defined as making eye contact with the person speaking, listening actively to what they are saying and not interrupting. It also includes speech without sarcasm, voice raising or swearing.

  • Use "I" statements. The person speaking should use "I" statements, instead of "you" statements. For example, "I feel that it is unfair that I am not allowed to go out with my friends," or "I think you are too young to be attending parties."

  • Be accepting of the other's feelings. For parents, it is helpful to acknowledge and accept your child's feelings even when you do not agree with him or her. For example, "I understand that you feel it is unfair, but I still feel that you are too young to be attending parties."

  • Summarize the other's point of view. In an anger provoking situation, it can be helpful for each person to summarize the other's point of view. This way, each person knows that they have been heard and understood.

  • Use negotiation in appropriate situations. In certain situations, negotiation may be an option to consider. For example, "Due to your disrespectful behavior, you cannot go out with your friends tonight. However, lets talk about how we can work toward you being allowed to go out tomorrow night."

  • Don't limit debate topics. Sometimes teenagers like to debate topics other than rules, like religion or politics. It is important that you listen, and not react with anger, even if you strongly disagree with their viewpoint. This can be an opportunity for you to calmly and respectfully share your own values. Teens are far more likely to listen when you are calm.

Employ a Supportive Approach

Even if your adolescent's hostility and anger does not promote warm feelings, always do your best to approach each discussion with a supportive attitude. Your teen will be more likely to respond better. For example say things like, "I know we both get frustrated when you lose your temper, but lets see if we can understand what happens when you start getting mad and come up with some solutions." This statement lets your teen know that you are standing by them.