Most parents/guardians want their kids to have an easier, happier life than they had. They try to achieve this by supporting their child and helping them navigate the many challenges that come with growing up. Whether it’s failing a math test or not being invited to a friend’s party, there are a lot of moments where a teen might feel discouraged, jealous, embarrassed, or excluded. At first glance, it may be assumed that the best thing for a parent to do would be to jump in and handle the situation on their teen’s behalf. By talking to the math teacher and convincing them to let the teen retake the math test or calling the friend’s parents and scolding them for not inviting their teen to the party. However, by jumping in and managing the situation for the teen this sends two messages. The first is that the teen learns that parents are the only ones capable of navigating these situations and the teen loses confidence in their ability to speak up for themselves. The second thing the teen learns is that if something bad happens it must be dealt with rather than accepted and coped with.
How Parents Can Nurture Problem-Solving Skills and Self-Advocacy
Parents’ intentions in these situations are usually positive, they simply want to help by taking away the emotional pain their teen is experiencing. Instead, what usually happens is the teen becomes reliant on the parent and unable to speak up for themselves, they don’t develop problem-solving skills, and they can’t decipher what is within their control and can be changed vs out of their control and must be accepted. So, what’s the fix?
- Become aware of the times you have the urge to step in and manage a situation for your teen.
- Give yourself grace for the times this may have happened in the past, reminding yourself that you were only trying to help.
- The next time a situation arises that you have this urge, take a second and identify what’s coming up for you knowing your teen is in distress. Are you feeling anxious, powerless, or stressed? Take a few deep breaths.
- Ask your teen “Is this something you can handle, or do you need my help?” – this empowers the teen to either ask for what they specifically need from you or to handle it on their own.
- Remind your teen you are here to support them should they need it at any point.
- After the situation has been managed, highlight to your teen the skills they used to problem-solve on their own. This could sound like “You did a really good job talking to your teacher about the bad grade you got and figuring out how to bring it up. I’m proud of you for speaking up for yourself.”