Have You Earned The Right To Your Teen’s Story?

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“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen R. Covey

The biggest and most important component in communications and relationships is trust. It is the ability to know that you can share a portion of yourself with another human being and knowing that it’s going to be safe – that YOU are going to be safe.

Brene Brown calls this concept, “The Vault”. This is a huge aspect of being able and willing to trust someone. (Link Below)

“You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.”

I think we know this logically. We know that we shouldn’t talk about others or share things they’ve done that you don’t agree with. But sometimes we don’t realize that we’re doing it. As parents, we share our experiences with others. We chat with other Mom’s and “vent” to them about our rough day and what our kids did that made things so hard.

Haven’t you ever gone to a mom gathering and said something like, “you will not even believe what _____________did to me today! Can you believe he/she did that?!” ? We all have. It’s funny when they’re little because it’s things like, “can you believe that little Johnny dumped the entire flat of eggs all over my floor?!” But then they’re teens and we have to be careful what we share.

There’s this fine line that we should never to cross because the results are devastating. Parents complain that they can’t get their teen to open up and tell them things. Their teens say their parents share things they’ve done with others or worse, on social media for the world to see…forever.

We think it’s not a big deal and also that it IS our story to tell because they did it TO US. The house, for example: you’re upset that they once again didn’t clean up and so in your frustration you snap a picture and post it to Facebook with a caption: “look at the kind of day I’ve had…again!” To you, it’s a means of venting, of getting some validation and understanding from other fellow Moms who in no doubt can relate. But to you teen, they’re now mortified that you posted that picture and they see it as public shaming. “Oh my goodness, all my friends are going to see this and harass me about it. This is as per embarrassing.” And in those moments of experiencing that negative feeling something in their brain has now stored this incident away as unsafe. That you, as parent and person who posted this, as unsafe.

I know you didn’t mean it like THAT. But that’s how they saw it. You have to remember their prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed yet (rational thought, critical thinking, sound reasoning area of the brain) they operate largely from and make decisions from their amegdala (the FEELING portion of the brain). So when they feel embarrassed their not having rational thought to think, “oh my mom didn’t mean anything by doing that. She was probably venting.” No. They’re all about, “this feels terrible. This is wrong. How could she do this to me?” Which equals: unsafe, unsafe, unsafe.

Do you see how this is one of the biggest barriers that blocks communication between parents and teens?

Your teen needs to know that you are a safe place for them to talk to. They need to know that they can be vulnerable, be able to make mistakes, say “dumb” things occasionally and that you’re not going to share these moments with the world.

Our job as parents is to teach loyalty. When we show that we are trustworthy and LOYAL to our teens they will know that they can trust you. They’ll not only share their experiences, thoughts, plans but they’ll do it without being prompted. They’ll continue to keep that connection open and thriving long after their teen years are gone too.

Every human being wants to be seen and heard. We all want to show up as our genuine, vulnerable selves and yet we hold back sometimes – a lot of the time. Why? Why do we do this? 

We hold back because there’s a part of us that fears that we’ll be judged, made fun of, or seen as not enough. We don’t know that we can trust people enough to allow us the space to learn, grow, look silly, and make mistakes. 

If we teach our teens by our actions of sharing THEIR story with others that we’re not loyal or trustworthy, they’re going to remember that and the next time they want to share something with you, they might hold back and remember that it wasn’t safe last time and maybe it’s not safe this time either.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” – Brene Brown

Have you earned the right to their story, to their journey, to see them as they wholeheartedly are? Just because you are their parent does not mean you’re automatically granted that right. We have to earn it. We have to show them that we’re a safe place over and over and over  again.

We have earned the right of trust by being trustworthy when they were little. We fed them, clothed them, bandaged them up when they got hurt. We were a SAFE place for a long, long time. But now when they’re older we have to be careful of the things we share with others. When someone asks us about our teen and we roll our eyes and tattle on them or complain about them to others, we lose a portion of their trust. There IS a way to complain and share our experiences and hardships with others WITHOUT breeching the trust of our teens. You can absolutely share YOUR story. Leave names and other identifying information OUT of it.

“None of us should be defined only by the worst thing we have ever done.” – Elder Kevin R. Duncan

Ponder for a moment about your own life. Can you remember a time that you shared something with another person only to find out that they blabbed to someone else about it? How did it feel? Are you going to continue to share things with them? Probably not, right? Why? Because they weren’t trustworthy or loyal to you and your story.

It’s more intense with our teens. They see you and believe that YOU are the safest person on the planet. Their parents love, cared, raised, birthed them – if anyone is a safe place, it’s them, right? So imagine how crushing it is when they hear you talking about them, sharing things about them that they didn’t want shared? 

This doesn’t mean you can’t share anything. It just means that you might want to ask first. How are you supposed to know what things they want shared and what things they don’t? What things they’re more sensitive to and what things they laugh about? Ask. Communication involves asking, respecting the other persons’ story, and being trustworthy with it.

A huge part of your role as a parent is to be loving, respectful, and trustworthy to your teens. Be loyal to them first. Show them daily that you are a safe place. Invite them to talk to you, to share with you, to be genuine with you. 

It’s really a beautiful place when you can see your teen learning who they are, trying different things on, saying and doing new things, and ultimately just being genuine and vulnerable. The person you feel safest with is the person you’re going to share with. When you’re having a rough time who are you going to call?

You’re going to call the person you feel is safe.

When you made a huge mistake and you’re embarrassed and ashamed. Who are you going to call?

No, not ghostbusters…You’re going to call that person you love and trust and who has EARNED the right to hear your story. You’re going to call them because you know it’s safe. You know they’re loyal to you. You know that they’re not going to judge you. You can be human in front of them and because of that gift you in turn allow them to be human too.

It’s a beautiful gift you can give to your teens. It’s an invaluable lesson that they’ll learn from you. Give them the gift of loyalty, trust, and safety.

If you feel like you’ve already broken this trust with them all is not lost. Teens WANT to trust their parents just as we parents WANT to trust our teens. If you need to start over, start over. Start by telling them you want to try again. Tell them what you plan to do. Ask them if they’ll be willing to trust you again. Then little by little, consistently show them that you can be trusted, that you want to be a part of their journey. Earn the right to their story.

It’s never too late. 

“It’s never too early and it’s never too late to lead, guide, and walk beside our children, because families are forever.” – Elder Bradley D. Foster

If you need help with this set up a FREE mini session – 20 minutes of coaching and I promise you, you’ll leave with tools to help you foster and repair this relationship. Book that HERE

LINK TO BRENE BROWN’S TALK – The anatomy of Trust – so good.

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