Wellness Workshop: Understanding & Communication with your Teen About Emotions

In a PTA Pre-Meeting held November 18, HCHS Psychology Consultant Dr. Alison Ferst and HCHS Health Education Faculty Michelle Gullo hosted a facilitated conversation about understanding and communicating with teenagers about emotions. The discussion focused on teens and their parents learning to achieve balance under pressure.


The group discussed how parents may make a child “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Dr. Ferst suggested teaching by example, saying there is an intimacy in a parent sharing his or her own vulnerabilities. Kids learn regulation of feelings from their parents when they are babies, and are still doing it in a way as teenagers.  Parents may model behavior that works to bring down stress, even by speaking in a quieter tone of voice.


A parent suggested that school guidance counselors are a good resource, in particular because they may have more success than a parent at working with the student to address a single issue at a time.


Another parent noted that while it’s good to say that parents should handle their own stress first and model balanced behavior, many times, the parents’ stress comes from the child. A few parents relayed examples, including kids not putting away their clothes, using debate skills to argue against taking out the garbage, or repeating instructions back to the parent (“I need YOU to hang up my coat”).  Suggested responses included telling the teen that the next time they ask the parent for something, they will need to ask as many times and wait as long as they made the parent wait for them to do the chore. Another parent suggested taking an approach successful in criminal mediation to resolve daily battles with teens over chores, namely, asking the teen what he or she is willing to contribute, whether it is cleaning up one time a week or helping the parent with another task. Then if the job is not done the teen is responsible.