What Are You Really Asking?
Linda Wechter-Ashkin PhD NCSP BC-TMHC ADHD CCSP
In counseling people often present with one issue but as time goes by they come to realize that the problem has nothing to do with that issue. They come to talk about their marriage problems when in fact they are experiencing lack of joy due to major depression. They come to talk about their difficulty losing weight and we uncover an early sexual trauma. They come to get help for their child’s anger, and we uncover major family dysfunction. It’s not that they are being dishonest, they either don’t trust me enough to disclose, or don’t really understand the source of their distress.
Your teenage children will do the same. They will come to talk about a friend who is vaping or a friend who is questioning their sexuality. They will talk about how stupid their teacher is or how uncool one of the kids in their class is. They will voice opinions different than yours just to see how you react. Sometimes it’s a test. They want to see what you will do. If you overreact, they will shut down. If you underreact, they will think you don’t care. If you tell them what to think or feel they will earn to distrust their own opinions and thoughts. If you ignore how they feel and think they will think their opinions don’t count. When your teenager tells you about their friend who is thinking about hurting themselves ask questions, give guidance, speak lovingly, but most of all listen to what they are really trying to say. Help me. I don’t know what to do about how I feel. Am I okay? If your child tells you that they feel a certain way that does not align with your way of thinking, listen to them. Ask them gentle questions. Validate their feelings even if you don’t agree with their opinions. Hear them, and whisper gently to them as our God does for us. I know through my life I have done many things that God didn’t approve of and I know that my earthly ways and thoughts are not always aligned with his divine ways. Not once has he condemned me, shut me down, ignored my cries when my actions led to distress, or heavy handedly led me. I’m sure he has looked and thought, Linda there is an easier way. There was. Linda you can do better than this. I could have. Linda this is not who I have made you to be. It wasn’t. But never once did my heavenly Father turn his back on me. Your children will make stupid mistakes, do things differently than you would, and will do avoidable things that will cause them distress. Like your heavenly father is for you be a gentle whisper, a guiding hand, and a soft place to fall.