The teenage years are a time of upheaval and transition because of the numerous physical and social changes and also the varying emotions that adolescents experience. At one point or another, teenagers may struggle with depression, anxiety and other negative emotions that may make them feel ashamed, worthless, hopeless or misunderstood, yet they have a hard time opening up about it, says Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., et al. for Helpguide.org. Child psychologists and counselors have devised a variety of tools that can help teens verbalize their feelings.
Art, drama and music help teenagers cope with many issues because it gives them a safe way to express their feelings, according to the Child Welfare League of America. Teenagers can express themselves through composing or presenting songs and reciting poems that tell their story. They can also use art as a creative outlet for their feelings where they draw, sculpt or create caricatures that represent how they feel. For example, a teenager who has been traumatized may be able to express himself through artistic representation of the grief, loneliness and desperation that she has experienced. The pictures also communicate to parents and therapists what may be going on internally.
Play therapy is a healthy way through which teenagers can express themselves. Although the method is more commonly used for children because play is the natural way that they express themselves, teenagers also still appreciate being able to create their own world where no one expects them to act grown up when they feel they cannot cope, according to The Child Center and Adult Services, a site that provides counseling for families. As parents, you need to observe the play and try to understand the themes that could indicate the source of your teenager’s problems because he may use the characters in his game to communicate issues that he may be uncomfortable talking about directly. Conversely, since play therapy allows the teenager to feel more in control, he may be able to verbalize his issues even as he engages in games that offer a soothing distraction.
Therapists use this method to practically demonstrate to teenagers that the way they feel and act is related to their individual thought patterns and beliefs, so to have different experiences, they need to change how they think, says the Center for Counseling Families, a site that provides trauma resolution and psychological assessments. The tool is useful in teaching teens how to identify harmful and self-deprecating thoughts and guides them on how they can replace such thoughts with positive and uplifting ones. Parents can also use this technique to get teenagers in the habit of verbalizing positive feelings about themselves, which in turn leads to high self-esteem and development of desirable behavior traits.
Listening attentively to your teenager is one of the most effective ways of helping him to verbalize his feelings. If the teenager is willing to talk about his problems with you, then you need to listen keenly and without judgment, maintaining eye contact and acknowledging by responding where necessary. Teenagers feel more comfortable expressing themselves when they feel that what they have to say matters and that you are paying close attention. If your teenager is simply not ready to communicate, refrain from pressuring or interrogating him. Instead, reassure him that you are always available whenever he needs you.