Episode 35: Healthy Communication with Teens

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Jaynay Johnson, a Marriage and Family Therapist in Philadelphia, who is the author of Dear Teen Self about how parents can communicate with their teenagers.  

We dive right in to discuss some of the most important issues for teens in today’s world.  Johnson feels that most important issue is adults not allowing teenagers to be teenagers.  She also mentions the social media part of life.  Adults want teenagers to be adults.  Johnson understands that parents want their children to be responsible, but parents have to teach them how to do it.  Adults are often on their kids regarding social media, but they themselves don’t practice social media etiquette.  Johnson explains that parents have to be able to practice what they preach.  Also, many parents want better for their teen, but their idea of wanting something better isn’t necessarily what their teen needs.

We next discuss whether Johnson finds that culture adds a layer for how teens and parents interact.  Johnson feels many teenagers are looking to be able to express themselves, but parents are afraid of letting them do that.  On a societal level, parents are trying to protect them, but they are sometimes being stifled.  It’s hard for teens to learn about their identity.  Many girls that Johnson sees in her practice may be the only black girl in their school.  She explains that they may be questioned about their hair or how they talk, which may cause them to feel pressure to assimilate to their school culture.  Parents may feel like the schools around them aren’t good enough for their teenagers, and they want their kids to go to private school; however, the private school can have it’s own stressors.  She challenges whether the public school is really that bad and asks if the child may thrive there instead of the private school?  When parents bring up bullying, Johnson asks about changing schools, as the environment means a lot.  She explains that you have to think about the culture versus the child’s personality.  

With regard to parents of color, we discuss that they may feel that because of how their race is seen in the world, they don’t want their child to fall into the stereotype.  For this reason, they may push their kids to a specific school or idea so they don’t experience the pitfalls of a certain racial identity.  Johnson works with many parents on the idea of “it doesn’t matter where you go to school.”  She gives an example of how people get pulled over all the time just for being black, and the police officer doesn’t ask you where you went to school.  She feels that we have to move away from the narrative of “caucasian or private schools are better.”  We need to refocus the narrative to “the schools will be good if they have more resources.”

We then jump to discuss how teens are trying to find their identity, but parents are trying to push their identity on them.  The teenger wonders what’s wrong with their identity as it is.  Johnson will ask parents what it was like for them as a teenager.  When she uncovers that, often the parent had a need that wasn’t met or thoughts that weren’t validated, so they end up acquiescing.  The parent often realizes they may have needed something as a teen that their own child does not need.  Then she brings the teen into the conversation to come up with a plan together.

Johnson is big on emotional accountability and responsibility.  A teenager cannot be both a child and an adult.  She wonders why we have a notion that at age 18, the teenager is supposed to break away and not need anyone?  She feels that we need to get away from the idea that they will never need anyone.  She explains that kids are turning to social media because the real people around them don’t know how to connect with them.  Adults have taught them to be isolative, so kids go to the internet to figure out their responsibilities.  Johnson will have teenagers reach out to her on Instagram to talk about their day, and she wishes there was someone close to them they could talk to. She feels that because of this, the term bullying is misused, and teens just don’t know how to communicate.  She explains that modeling is important for teens so they can learn how to communicate.  When they see an adult practice what they preach, it really helps.  

Finally, we talk about how teens look to so many people around them to figure out how to be an adult. Johnson encourages parents to help meet their child’s needs.  If a parent is just not the nurturing type,  she asks them to get child connected with someone who is.  If they enjoy hugs or touch, they can get involved in an activity that includes that, like a mentor program, gymnastics, cheerleading, etc.  She tells the parents to pour $50 into a program weekly, or drop them off somewhere.  As a parent, you have to make the investment for the child if it’s a deficit of your parenting.  This causes you see a happy child, and you don’t feel like you are neglecting them.  Johnson feels that this provides a healthy way for them to have their needs met instead of trying to meet them in an unhealthy way.



Jaynay Johnson, LMFT is the author of Dear Teen Self, the cofounder of The Black Brain Campaign and the owner of Teen Talk.  She has dedicated her life to helping teenagers navigate through their adolescence with little emotional bruising. She is leading the charge on using strength based approaches that speak directly to teenagers allowing them to feel empowered in their existence. Jaynay has a vision that will allow teenagers to have safe spaces to be themselves and grow with a profound sense of self.

She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Delaware State University and her Master’s Degree from La Salle University.



WEBSITE: http://www.dearteenself.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Dearteenself/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/TeenTalkTherapy/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/dearteenself/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/jaynaychanel/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/teentalktherapy/


Dear Teen Self on Amazon


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