Sometimes, I feel it is difficult to work with teens because they’re still a child but want some independence. They are at a point where they are developing individuality but still need and want their mom or dad. They have their own thoughts and opinions but are not sure how to respectfully voice them to their parents. They are using the phrase “Don’t judge me” (see the Don’t Judge Me blog posted in February), while stepping out of their comfort zone by sharing thoughts and feelings to be closer with their parents, but feeling unheard in the end.
There is a song, kind of a sad song, Calling you (from Bagdad Café, by Jevetta Steele), whose chorus was used in a 1990’s AT&T commercial “I am calling you, can’t you hear me, I am calling you.” Very fitting for the commercial, but most recently I thought to use for a presentation and listened to the whole song. Listening to the song in its entirety, the chorus is about a person who needs to be heard, she is calling out for help and even says “I know you hear me.” I think this is what children, more specifically teens may be feeling, unheard and not sure how to reach out.
I think that many of us have a difficult time understanding how to relate to our teens and may not realize that our teens are having the same difficulty reaching us. I mentioned in another blog how our expectations, adults and/or parents, may not match the expectations of children.
I wonder how many teens may feel that parents should “just get it” and understand what their child is going through just because they are an adult and were once a teen too. I also hear teens say they feel that things are just different now and feel their parent can’t understand, as to say the parent was never a child themself.
The song sounds sad to me because there is no resolve at the end, where the singer found the help and the listening ear she needed. It ended just the way it began.
My goal when working with my clients is their goal, to feel better. Part of that is giving their feelings and thoughts a voice that can be heard, trying to share that voice with their parents. Now and then parents miss what is being communicated to them because their teen is not sure how to do it out of fear of not being heard. Teens in my office say, “it doesn’t matter,” or “I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work,” or “she’s not going to change.” There is no resolve for them in their efforts of calling out to be heard.
As a parent and therapist, I do not want to believe that the song ends there, with people feeling unheard. It is so important for our children and teen’s mental health, self-esteem and positive connections with others that they are heard. I believe in change and progress, that’s my goal in connecting with others. Helping people believe that their thoughts and feelings are important, no matter how trivial they may seem to us, this is where the connection begins.
Furthermore, teachers, grandparents, coaches and other adult influences, can help children to be heard. Paying attention to what their actions are telling us is important. Sometimes they do not have the words to explain what they need, but they are still communicating through behaviors, that they have something to say.
Here’s to hoping that we can begin to hear those “calling out” to be heard.
They know we hear them, it’s time for us to respond.