Parent-Teen Communication: Active Listening


Most of the parent-teen communication problems stem from their opposing parent and teen life development roles. The parents’ job is to insure the safety and welfare of their children, which imposes a certain amount of control. Teens’ job is, on the other hand to thrive to separate from their parents in order to determine their own identity. In this case, a healthy communication remains the best way in strengthening parent-teen relationship.

Active listening is a crucial ingredient to improving communication with your children. Your children will get the message that they are important enough to have your full attention. The process includes the following components, easier said than done, yet practice remains the only way to master it:

  • Your child makes a statement about something that she wants you to understand
  • You repeat the important points of what you heard her say starting with: “if I understood” and ending with: “Is that correct? Or “Am I right?”
  • Your child then gives you feedback as to whether or not you understood her correctly. If you did not understand what he said, make the statement again, with a bit more clarification and end with: “is that what you meant?” He will then once again reflect back to you what was heard. This back and forth process –during which you make NO judgment-, continues until your child acknowledges that you heard correctly what was said.

To put it all together, active listening will sound like this: “If I understand, you are sad because your friends have decided not to befriend you anymore and that breaks your heart. Am I right?”

If your teens agree that what you heard is what they said and they have asked for an answer, give one but refrain from fixing the problem (offer your help instead)

Learning to communicate in a manner that can be heard by your teens requires lots of practice (with some mistakes), patience and persistence. Lack of a healthy communication with your teens, on the other hand, will lead to an ongoing tension and platonic relationship in the family. It may be helpful to seek the support of a mental health professional if you experience frequent communication issues.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

Teens Suicide: What Parents Need To Know

Most teens, at some point in their lives, have experienced feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and distress. These feelings may escalate into suicidal thoughts if they remain unnoticed by parents and close family members.

Teens suicide can be prevented if parents are aware of its risk factors, warning signs and how they can better support their children.

What makes teens vulnerable to suicide?

  • Mental health issues such as depression (with an overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness), bipolar disorder, and anxiety
  • Stressful life circumstances such as moving, parents’ divorce or separation, financial changes, bullying or cyber bullying in an unsupportive environment
  • Lack of a support network due to ongoing conflict with close friends or family members, which results on young people feeling isolated
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Family history of depression or suicidal behaviour
  • Exposure to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Being uncertain of sexual orientation
  • The influence of Social Media:  some unhealthy games and Chat Forums on the Social Media would rather suggest committing suicide as a way of showing bravery or dealing with life stressors

Look out for warning signs

Distressed teens may succeed in hiding their pain, however, clues to how they are truly feeling can be noticeable by their families and friends:

  • Talking about death and hinting that they might not be around anymore
  • Pulling away from family and friends, and losing of interest in taking part in hobbies or activities
  • Lack of focus on school work
  • Low self-esteem and self-hatred statement as: “everyone would be better off without me.”
  • Giving away treasured belongings
  • Hinting about suicide in emails or on the Social Media

Helping you suicidal teen: Dos and Don’ts

It’s important that parents see warning signs of suicide as serious and not as “attention-seeking” behaviour.

  • Maintain an open communication with your teen (or start it now if communication between the two of you has been poor in the past) and show your concern, support, and love
  • Ask openly if they are thinking of killing themselves
  • If your teen talks to you, do no minimise the issue, this will increase their sense of hopelessness.
  • Do not be judgmental about suicide
  • Contact your teens’ school and ask to learn their Digital Literacy Programme if your teen is active online
  • Regularly accompany your teen to see a counsellor/doctor

As parents, it is also important to look after yourself by talking to trusted friends about the issue and learning to relax and deal with your stress. Parenting, after all, is never a smooth journey!

Written by
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling)
MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

Raising Adaptable Kids

Parents, do you wish that your kids were a little more considerate and accommodating ? In other words, wish that they would be less upset and fussy when situations are different than usual ? Are your stays stress-free when visiting family back home ? Unfortunately, cranky, fussy and whiny kids tend to make your stay far from enjoyable. The good news is that, it’s possible to instill sense of adaptability in your child’s life.

Living abroad with extremely busy lives, often creates a world of structure, routines and schedules. These results in  a mostly predictable  lives and routines. As  children grow up, we hope that these early experiences will be internalized, and that they will emerge strong in a world of flux and change. But is that actually happening?

Tips on raising adaptability kids:

1) Keeping a positive attitude: If parents are positive during transitions, it’s more likely your kids will be too. When in a new country, the likelihood of a child adapting e.g. enjoying the local delicacies, connecting with the culture and people will happen if it’s modeled by the  parents.

2) Avoid casting routines in stone: It’s good to have routines but avoid  following  like the Bible. It’s ok to change routines occasionally giving the child the opportunity to adapt to it. It may be a challenge initially, but things settle soon.

3) Be firm: Avoid accommodating to your child’s every demand. Encourage alternatives by talking to your child. This helps develop both discipline and flexibility.

4) Trying new things: Exposing your kids to new people, foods and environments from time to time. There is nothing better than teaching your kids about the world while exposing them to new things often.

Change, uncertainty, and transition are realities of life. The extent to which children effectively respond to these realities can have a significant bearing on their life course. An encouraging fact is that research and practice have shown that children can be flexible, resilient and adaptable little humans, unless their environment prevents them from being so. Nature certainly plays a role in determining your little one’s personality, but let’s not forget the power of nurture. With time and practice, you can be successful in teaching your little dictator “the art of flexibility”.

Written by Vinti Mittal

Clinical Member of SAC, SAC Registered Counsellor, CMSAC, Reg CLR

MS (Counselling), Grad. Cert (Counselling),

PGDCA (Comp Sci). BSc (Hons)


Life Strategies For Happier Teens

Teens’ life is by no means easy. Enduring both physical and emotional changes, they thrive to feel connected and accepted within their peer group, but most of all, teens are longing for consistent empowerment by their parents.

Here are some strategies parents can use to better support them navigate through this transition.

Strategy #1: The happiest people are not those with no problems in their life

Physical pain is caused by intense stimuli that affect part(s) of the body. A throbbing toe for instance is a sign to change the shoes we are wearing.  A burning tongue can be a sign to check the temperature of our drink before -not after- we drink it. Thus physical pain tells us we’d better change what we are doing.

The same way, emotional pain is a good alarm system that prevents further damage.  This unpleasant feeling (hurt, anger, jealousy, resentment, etc.) resulting from negative experiences tells teens  that the way they are thinking is not working, and that the more they believe, think, or behave the same way, the more it hurts.

Hence the happiest people are those who learn from their problems how to avoid doing the same thing in life, to get different results.

Here are some tools to help teens get out of sheer habit and deal with a situation in a different way:

Self-awareness: take a moment, step back and observe your thoughts.

Conscience:  Listen to you inner voice and consider how that predictable                           outcome can affect your well-being.

Imagination: envision new possibilities in dealing with the situation.

Willpower: You are powerful and have the ability to change your habit.

Strategy #2: No need to be perfect to be liked by others

If your teens wish to have a different nose, face or body to be liked and accepted by others, help them understand that there is no “reality”, only “perception”. So whether they perceive their body as ugly or as cute, they are right.

Explain to your teens that nobody’s perfect, and whereas talent and beauty are useful in life, the most valued qualities remain courage, honesty, generosity and humility. These qualities are not innate so teens have the ability to develop, nurture them within themselves and forge them as a character. Beautiful and talented people are not necessary liked whereas honest and generous people are definitely likeable no matter how their look can be.

The journey of parenting is never that smooth. Remember to serve as your teens’ role model by practicing what you are preaching. If after all, your teens are having difficulty opening up to you, encourage them to talk to another trusted adult such as a family member, friend or a counsellor.

Written By:
Sanaa Lundgren
Collaborative Family Practitioner
SACAC Counselling

Positive Body Image and Impact On Teen’s Self Esteem

Studies have found that 1 out of 2 teens in Singapore, believe that they are too fat; 8 in 10 want to change the way they look; and 1 in 5 would consider plastic surgery. Research shows that there has been an increase in body image concerns and decrease in self-esteem among teens in Singapore. This is concerning, considering that a healthy body image in early years lay the foundation for good physical and mental health.

Some facts from National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), America

  • Body size awareness tends to start around the age of 5 in children.

  • 40-60% of elementary school girls and 25% of elementary school boys are worried about weight gain.
  • By preteens, 50% of girls are dissatisfied with their weight, shape and start to withdraw from activities because they feel bad about their appearance.
  • In middle school girls, start to actively manage their appearance (more than boys), and is particularly stressful for them because of the change in body shape, as a result of puberty.
  • Statistic shows that, body satisfaction may hit a low between the ages of 12-15.

Body Image is defined as a way that one perceives their bodies. It relates to individual’s shape, size and weight. The need to look perfect is spreading across most age groups, ethnicity, strata and the influence seems to be strong and impossible to ignore.

24-year-old double Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Adlington, credited with inspiring generations of young swimmers, was reduced to tears feeling insecure during a conversation about body image after her retirement from the sport.

What influences Body Image?

Family life and culture tends to have a strong influence on one’s view about their bodies. Different cultures and families have varied views about ideal body shapes and sizes – some being more encouraging and realistic than others. A family’s pressures to look perfect, a coach’s expectations of “making weight” for the sports team, or body changes during puberty may impact a child’s perception of body image. Interestingly, media has been defining the “ideal” size by bombarding us with unrealistic, air brushed pictures, creating negative influence on our children’s concept of body image.

How Does Body Image affect Self Esteem?

Body Image plays a major role in defining a teenager’s self-esteem. It’s hard to feel good about oneself, if one is unhappy with their bodies or appearance. Self-esteem is the “real” opinion one has of them. It’s something that can’t be touched or seen but seems to be always following us around like a shadow. Some children may try to compensate the way they feel by manipulating (excessive exercise routines, using fad diets, counting calories etc.) their body images. Parents can play an important role in helping children form a positive body image.

How can parents help boost positive body image?

  • Ensure use of positive statements around food, meal times, body sizes and shapes.

  • Model healthy behaviors, to ensure “fit” bodies with higher levels of self-esteem and healthier body images.

  • Avoid practicing fad diets and introduce “Self Attuned Eating”, a concept of learning to pay attention to and trust feelings of hunger and fullness – this will help promote a healthy, normalizing attitude toward eating.

  • As a parent, appreciate and celebrate your own body for what it can do, not just how it looks.
  • Model to accept and value people for who they are irrespective of their looks and appearances.
  • Compliment children on their qualities rather than their physical appearance

  • Enhancing the children’s knowledge on the genuinity of the images on screens and magazines projected by media around us.

When in doubt?

You may begin to wonder what is really happening, when you notice your teenager seeking for unusual assurance on their appearance, are overly obsessed with looks, drastically changing their food habits or experiencing loss of considerable weight  etc.? Discuss your concerns with them, if things don’t work out, consider talking to a counselor/psychologist to get some help.

Written by:
Vinti Mittal
Director & Counsellor
SACAC Counselling