20 Sep The Power of Communication – Advice from Middle School Counselor Brian Vega
Have you ever had a conversation that changed your life or at least your day?
Brian Vega, Counselor at Hickory Hills Middle School, explains the power of communication between parents and teens in his recent interview with Safe and Sober. This is his advice.
Vega believes that communication is the key to helping students make smart decisions.
“Communicate with your teenager, and by communicate, I don’t mean talk I mean listen. And keep listening and keep listening until that child or young person feels understood.”
As the parent of a teen, it’s important to remember that students face an immense amount of peer pressure. Living in the 21st Century, that peer pressure is more daunting than ever. Vega gives parents a list of ways social media plays a major role in student’s levels of peer pressure. Vega says “the fashion trends, the body images, and the experimenting with drugs and alcohol.” Keeping these in mind, it is more crucial than ever that parents begin communicating with their teens about these pressures.
A major part of communication is creating a dialogue and a sense of understanding with your teen about drugs and alcohol starting at a young age. Vega finds that most parents are anxious when discussing drugs and alcohol with their middle schoolers because they, “don’t want to give them information about it and put it on their radar if we talk about it too early.” However, Vega responds to these anxieties with the simple statement that, “It’s already on their radar.”
An essential dialogue tool Vega touches on is responding to a statement about drugs and alcohol with open-ended questions instead of punishments. Some examples Vega gives are, “What happened? How did your friends react? How did your teachers react? Most importantly, what do you think about it.” By asking these questions, it allows your teen to tell you not only what happened, but how it made them feel and why.
Vega warns against answering these questions or concerns with punishments or by reiterating the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Vega adds that,
“This is not a teachable moment… It’s a time to connect with your child.”
When young people want to open up about things that they’re experiencing around them, the best way to respond, according to Vega, is with reflection. Repeat what you hear them saying back to them. “What that does is it lets the student know that, ok, this person gets it.” Let your teen know you are a trusted adult who is willing to listen to them.
According to Vega, at the end of the day, the best thing you can do for your teen is to understand that open and understanding communication is key.