The importance of giving teens empathy rather than advice

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The importance of giving teens empathy rather than advice

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Well, teens have a lot of disappointments in life, and they take every one of their tragedies very seriously. And it's important for every parent to know how to respond. We tend to respond by giving advice. And advice can backfire. When your teen is upset. Maybe they've broken up with a boyfriend. Girlfriend's moved away. Didn't get on the Varsity Team. Didn't get the part in the play that she wanted. Failed a test even. When your child has these disappointments, don't offer advice. Advice is very technical - it's sort of problem solving. It doesn't mend. It's not a healer. Advice. It is information. So we really want to do that healing part first. So I suggest that parents use what I call empathic listening, empathy, sometimes called mirroring, active listening. So saying things like you know I know you were really disappointed about that test, That's too bad you failed it. or honey, I'm sure you are crushed that, you know, Mary's moved out of town. It's really really hard. Or You know, that's one of the biggest disappointments, I really understand how hard that can be. Saying things like that will not fix your child's problem or turn around the situation. But you will be listening, hearing, understanding. And truly that's the best compassion you can have for your child.

Watch Cynthia G. Whitham, LCSW's video on The importance of giving teens empathy rather than advice...

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Cynthia G. Whitham, LCSW

Director, UCLA Parenting & Children’s Friendship Program

Cynthia G. Whitham, LCSW, Director of the UCLA Parenting and Children’s Friendship Program, has been training parents for over 30 years. She is the author of two books, Win the Whining War & Other Skirmishes: A family peace plan, and The Answer is NO: Saying it & sticking to it, which have been translated into nine languages. In addition to her UCLA group classes, Ms. Whitham has a private practice on the east and west sides of Los Angeles. In 2000, she spent a month training clinicians at the National Institute of Mental Health of Japan. A lively speaker, Ms. Whitham does presentations and trainings for schools and organizations. Ms. Whitham raised two happy, healthy, and (relatively) well-behaved children (she thinks that may be the best credential of all). Daughter Miranda McLeod is a fiction author and is in a PhD program at Rutgers University. With sadness, Cynthia tells us that her son Kyle died in 2007, within months of graduating from San Francisco State University.

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