I have a dream! (of communicating with teenagers!)

communicating with teenagersI hear my daughter (18yold) crying. The kind of heart felt sobbing that I want to run towards as fast as I can.

I hesitate sometimes, I’m sure I am making it worse by just noticing her upset.

My fist paused centimetres from the door, I knock and open the door, the first surprise, she doesn’t say leave me alone. That’s a win!

Only why does it feel so scary now? I think sometimes it’s easier to be rejected, then you can tell yourself at least you have tried.

I sit down next to her on the bed, I summon any communication skill that could be lurking inside. OH OH I’m frozen. Am I detecting that its actually ok for me to be sitting here? Never happened before.

I start to speak, and simultaneously the crying gets more intense.

I know from learning communication skills that would be a sign that a thought is going through her head and it really hurts to think that thought.

I notice my body tense up and I have this desperation about my own thoughts and I am telling myself…what can I say that will make it better?

About 3 minutes pass, Many thoughts go through my head, she hasn’t stopped crying; not once.

Then she stops crying and reaches for the tissue. I reach for the best I have to offer… My first speaking part. I say, Will you tell me what has upset you?

She replies, No I can’t talk about it. Then she says something else, I’m sure it’s really important only I can’t understand the words through the intense sobbing and I don’t think I should ask her to repeat it.

When I hear ‘I can’t talk about it’ I am worried, is she terminally ill, has someone physically hurt her, what ? I need to rule out some safety issues. Ahhh there they are..  some skills just coming to me now.

-‘I need to know you are not physically hurt in some way’. And she confirms there is nothing physical causing her to be upset. Phew!

I feel slightly more relaxed still not knowing what to say.

Then all the usual comes to mind

‘ Have you tried…., ‘

‘When I was going through this I……’

‘This will help you uncover your deepest desires in life and discover who you really are….’

Oh Mother…please don’t, I hear myself saying to myself. I have not only some difficult messages from her, I have difficult messages from myself.  It’s so very busy in my head.

Then I realised!  It’s been all about me, I can’t understand, I ‘m feeling scared, I’m going to fail, I’m a bad mother, I won’t be able to help her….Me me me!

I took a breath in then out, then again, and again. I reached into my empathy tool kit and asked

Are you feeling scared and needing safety or someone in particular to care about you?

Then breath

Are you feeling despair and longing for compassion or understanding?

The minutes were passing

Are you feeling confused because being heard and trust is very important to you?

I said all this in my head. In the remaining 10 or 12 minutes I was really listening to her, made empathy guesses silently, sat side by side, I was with her the whole way. I felt calm.

A few minutes passed and then she stopped crying and said….

‘You can go now…..’

My mouth dropped open, my eyes widened with disbelief not knowing whether I had done good or bad.

I stood up and then before I left the room, she said’ thanks so much Mum for listening and talking and helping….

Yay I did Good!!

I told her I will be in the living room, no tv on, I will be in silence, that 10mins is completely yours, whether you are in your room and in my thoughts or whether you decide you want to talk more to me.

  1. Let me in her room when she was upset
  2. Thanked me at the time
  3. Thanked me again afterwards

And that my friend is what is called the Parent trifecta!

Letting go of getting it right was the best gift I ever gave to myself.

I have a dream….everyone will be able to give that gift of Empathy to someone else.

Warm wishes


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Glyn Conlon

Workplace Communication Specialist at Keystone Skills
Glyn has 20 years experience in the personal development field and more recently Compassionate Communication (NVC) and Workplace and Assessment training. She also has 18 years experience in organisations with an understanding of consumer needs and perception.

Glyn is passionate about communicating the truth with care. She realised an unclaimed source of her own energy is when she can free herself from guilt. Once this freedom is reached she found she could think and communicate more simply and clearly with the courage to ask for what she wanted. Glyn now enables others to more easily have their message heard and the listener more readily agrees to their requests.
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