Father: “All I want is for you to be happy. Why is it so difficult?”
Teen: “I am not interested to study anymore. I want to quit school.”
Father: “No. You must go to school . You must study hard and get good grades. Then you can get a good job and be happy.”
Teen: “No, I don’t need to go to school to be happy. Why should I worry about my future now”
Parent: “You are too young to understand. Just go to school and be happy.”
Teenager: “I am not happy. I don’t want to go to school.”
Here is a test of two wills. Both father and son assume that they are talking about the same thing but there’s no emotional connection. More harmonious communication would involve the father coming alongside his teen and emotionally walking through the difficulties and struggles that lie behind his desire to quit school.
Father: “I need you to study hard and pass your exams even if you don’t enjoy school because it is important to me that you get a good education.”
Teen: “But I hate school and exams. It’s too stressful and the teachers are bad.”
Father: “Ok, it sounds like you are struggling with school. Let’s go down the list and hear out your complaints. Then we can see how we can use the good stuff you have in school to get through the bad stuff.”
The key here is to give your child the emotional support he needs when he or she is struggling. Below is a brief summary of steps to giving emotional support to your child.
1. Help the child identify his or her difficulty or dislike head on rather than avoiding it. Provide your child with your full support so he or she does not feel alone. Don’t fix the problem on your child’s behalf.
2. Point out the positive assets even as the child describes his or her struggle. This may include resources like friends, tutors and past successes that empower your child. Avoid criticism that includes words like “should” and “must”.
3. Encourage your child to apply these new found resources and let him or her tell you what would change if he or she did so.
4. Walk your child through these difficulties with a view that he or she has the power to overcome them and be happy. Parents need to know that we can never protect our children from the difficulties of life, but we can provide emotional support that empowers them to face their problems.
Written by Philip Chang