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The Counseling Corner: The Importance of Connection

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with adolescents is being able to partner with their parents and families. This is not always an easy task to take on, but one that is worthwhile when families can connect with one another.

Our students at St. Mary’s Academy are in a critical time of identity formation. During this stage of development, our students are eager to form new relationships with their peers, try new things to explore what their interests are and are not, have well informed opinions and ideas, and discover their own individuality.

It may not always be an easy path to explore our identity as an adolescent. Yes, teenagers can be hormonal and are dealing with pressures from school, their peers and social media. This can be difficult to navigate. Often times, when an adolescent is acting out, they are trying to communicate something that does not feel right. They may feel disconnected and are not able to verbalize what they need. Responding to our teenagers with anger, yelling or punishment may not result in the outcome initially planned as this does not make them feel heard. As differences between you and your adolescent naturally flourish, consider looking at arguments as valued communication.

Creating connection with your teenager can clear a path for communication about their emotions, thoughts and opinions, which can lead to increased understanding for both of you. Adolescents and parents long for and respond to connection in different ways, and it is important to find out what works for your family. Here are some ideas for connecting with your teen:

▪   Schedule a regular hang out time – Grab a cup of coffee or tea, watch a movie together, go for a walk, cook a meal, do something you both enjoy. Spending time together is a way to nurture your bond and have fun doing so.

▪   Dine together – There’s no better time to connect than over a meal. Make sitting down and eating together a regular thing in your home.

▪   Affection – Despite how “cool” your teen is, they still need love and crave affection. Easily connect with your child everyday by saying “I love you” or telling them “good night” and “good morning”. These words can go a long way.

▪   Play in their world – Get down to their level and let your teen share their interest with you. If your teenager loves art or computers, try spending an afternoon drawing together or have them teach you about the new game they are playing on the computer. Follow their lead.

▪   Just listen – Teenagers want people to feel interested in what they have to say. Things that may seem little to adults can feel really big to teens. Whether they are struggling with school, peers, rejection, or just feeling stressed. Welcome and encourage your child to come to you anytime they need to talk, ask questions or cry in a judgement free zone. Recognize their feelings and be with them while they are sad/angry/scared/excited.

▪   Keep it real – Talk with your child about wanting to spend more time together and mention some of the suggestions above or maybe your teen has some suggestions of their own.


25 Ways to Ask a Child “How Was Your Day?”

1.       Tell me about a moment today when you felt proud of yourself.

2.       Tell me about something that made you laugh today.

3.       How did you help someone today? How did someone help you today?

4.       How would you rate your day on a scale of 1-10 and why?

5.       If you could plan tomorrow’s lesson, what would you teach your classmates about?

6.       What three words would you use to describe your best friend at school?

7.       What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

8.       When were you the happiest today?

9.       Tell me about a moment today when you felt excited about what you were learning in class.

10.   Tell me about a moment in class when you felt confused.

11.   What was the best thing that happened at school today?

12.   What was challenging about your day?

13.   What are three words you would use to describe your day?

14.   If you could be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do differently?

15.   Who would you like to play with at recess that you have never played with before?

16.   Tell me about something new that you learned about a friend.

17.   Is there anything you would like to talk about that I might be able to help you figure out?

18.   Is there anything you are worried about?

19.   What was the most frustrating part of your day?

20.   If you would do any moment from today over again, what would you do differently?

21.   Which assignment did you feel most confident about today?

22.   If you could change one thing about your day today, what would it be?

23.   If you had $1,000 to buy something for your school, what would you buy?

24.   If you could do anything with 1 classmate, who would you choose and what would you do?

25.   Is there a question you wish I would ask you about your day?