Holiday [Re] Connections!

The holidays are here!  For many the holidays are an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. Monday’s blog about overcoming social anxiety during the holidays was brought to you by CalMHSA: Each Mind Matters Movement.  Today’s blog is a resource of how parents and relatives can speak with teens and young adults and [re]connect during the holidays. Teens and young adults may be managing a work-life balance or facing the challenges of emerging adulthood. Below are four helpful tips that will bridge the communication gaps and encourage the creation of safe mental and emotional spaces for teens and young adults.

  1. Don’t shine an interrogation light.

Keep the conversation as casual as possible. This helps to secure your child’s comfort in the conversation – and yours. The less perceived pressure there is to divulge personal thoughts and feelings, the more comfort present. The more comfort there is, the greater the potential for more vulnerability and more insight on what their lives are actually like outside of the household.

Key: Let them take lead the conversation’s direction and duration! You might just be surprised.

  1. Listen without judgement. Empathize appropriately.

One of the top reasons your child may not share their experiences with other adults at home is because they aren’t sure their events/thoughts will be received without judgement (or worse, punishment). Sometimes your role as their protector has to be put to different use. So, rather than grimace at what their he-said she-said tale is revealing, engage in the conversation with responses that show active listening and affectionate understanding.

Key: If advice is needed, keep it short.

  1. Listen to and validate their feelings.

Sometimes, we hear things that cause feelings of personal offense, or personal responsibility. Remember, though, that you have an opportunity to create a foundation of safety for the child in your life. If the focus is removed from how they are feeling, to how you are reacting, then they might feel less comfortable being vulnerable with you!

  1. Be just as open as you want them to be.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of personal vulnerability to help someone else open up. This is a tricky step for some caring adults. On the one hand, you don’t want to overwhelm your child with too many adult-worries, but on the other hand you do not want to treat them with extremely gentle kid-gloves. Still, you should be willing to be vulnerable and share your joys and pains in an age-appropriate way. This serves as a model of trust for all parties of the conversation!

Ultimately, the goal is to build so much trust, comfort, and merriness into this holiday season so that the New Year may be a strong and supportive start for all friends and family! (Click here to find great tips on how to start conversation of any topic.)

Written by Chenece Blackshear, ODE Intern

The Office of Diversity and Equity is committed to offer prevention and early intervention programs to San Mateo County families.