Empathy in Communicating with your TechWorld Teen
Taryn Bogonovich, MFTI
ACS’ Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
As a co-facilitator of the ACS weekly parents support group, I often hear parents share that the world their kids are growing up in is so vastly different than their experience. They just don’t understand their teen’s behavior and sometimes they don’t know how to manage through issues, when they don’t have a role model from their own childhood.
From this mindset, it can be difficult to transport yourself back to that time and have empathy for what your teen is going through. In order to really put yourself in your teen’s shoes, to try to relate and connect with your teen, it is helpful to look for what is common in your experience. For example, can you remember your own frustration with your parents’ treating you like a child? Did you feel like your parents didn’t understand you? Did you ever go along with friends, or do something impulsive, that you later regretted? Though the landscape certainly has changed, many of the same underlying challenges exist.
Don’t get me wrong, I can acknowledge how much has dramatically changed in the past couple decades. Teens today don’t remember a time before personal computers and internet access. They are usually constantly connected via mobile phones and other devices. They are in the stage of identity formation, while simultaneously creating an online identity. Add to that, media, video games and other entertainment that may be available to teens that is mature, graphic and/or illicit.
However, in order to bridge the gap in communication with your teen, it is most helpful to remember that at the core, the adolescent development process is still the same. Try to stay calm, keep your listening ears open and be open to learning about the changing environment that they are living in. There are many things that your teen won’t share with you, so in order to know more about your teen’s world, you can educate yourself by exploring the online world. In order to communicate with mutual respect, it is best to boost your own level of knowledge about new terms, trends and technologies, as well as a curiosity and openness to hear from your teen. Communicating in their own language will also demonstrate to them that you are willing to meet them half-way, and they’ll be more willing to listen too.