Helping Resistant Teens Agree to Life Coaching

Want to hear something scary? According to the CDC, the second leading cause of death among teens aged 15 to 19 is suicide, only second to accidents. Adolescence is the most formative and volatile part of anyone’s life. Pile on the stressors of school, social life, sports, parents, relationships, etc. and it is a lot for a young person to handle. Intensified by the fact that many teenagers are simultaneously struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, social disorders, ADHD, behavior health disorders, emotional disorders, physical disorders… the list goes on and on. Any number of these struggles could be on your teenager’s plate and their friends, teachers, and family may not even be aware. The teenager themselves may not even realize they are struggling with one of these many issues. 

Many teenagers do not have the vocabulary to express their feelings, thoughts, emotions, and struggles. As their parents and mentors, it is our responsibility to help them expand their knowledge, and self-awareness to better communicate their needs, struggles and goals. 

Recognizing there is an issue is one step, but the second step can be even more difficult. Getting your teenager to agree to receive help for any of these issues can be a huge hurdle. Many teens are resistant to receiving help for emotional, physical, or behavioral issues. Accepting help, from their perspective, can feel like admitting being ‘broken’ or ‘not good enough’, and can make a teenager feel like a failure. Although this couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s important to help them understand their feelings are valid and delicate. 

If your teenager could benefit from the support of a mentor-coach, therapist, psychologist, tutor, etc., but is feeling resistant to the idea, keep reading for some recommendations and tips on how to bridge this gap and get them the help they need and deserve.

How to Talk to a Resistant Teen

A resistant teen is in a vulnerable position. Depending on how you reached this point in the conversation, they may feel attacked, caught off-guard, or embarrassed. As parents and guardians, it is our responsibility to protect them and make them feel safe. Although you have set good intentions for seeking help for your teen, they may still feel defensive. Here are three things to keep in mind when discussing help for your resistant teen: 

  • Understand Why They Feel Resistant

There are a number of reasons a teenager may feel or act resistant to receiving help. Here are just a few examples; 

  • They are embarrassed – “I’m not broken”
  • They don’t think it will work – “I can do it on my own”
  • They don’t think they need help – “This is just how I am”
  • They feel hopeless – “Nothing will work”
  • They don’t like it – “I’ve tried it before and it’s not for me”

Listen to your teenager whenever you bring up the idea of seeking out help. How do they typically respond? Do any of the examples above fit their responses? If so, consider saying something such as: 

“I understand you’re feeling _______. I would feel that way too if I were in your position. Can we work together to find a solution that feels good to you?”

This type of response reassures your teenager that you hear them and understand what they are communicating. Sometimes, the resistance comes from a lack of validation that the teen’s fears, concerns, and/or worries are noticed. 

If this does not work, start by asking some clarifying questions, such as: 

  • Why do you think it won’t work?
  • What part of it feels bad to you?
  • If you do not get this help, what other solutions do you have?
  • Why do you think you’re having such strong feelings about this? 
  • Can you help me understand your point of view?
  • Remain calm throughout the conversation and explain the reasons you think your teenager will benefit from the assistance. 

If you are able to understand the reasoning behind your teenager’s resistance, you can then begin to break down those fears. While remaining calm and open to conversation with your teenager, explain to them why you think this help is needed and beneficial. Here are some examples: 

  • I think the mentor-coach might be a good way for you to learn how to better communicate and understand your emotions so you don’t feel upset as often. 
  • I wonder how a tutor might help you understand what parts of Geometry are more difficult for you and explain them in a different way that might make more sense. 
  • You are capable of doing hard things and it is completely okay to ask for help along the way. I am here to help support you through everything, but I am not an expert in ______. It’s ok to feel unsure about it right now. How can I help you feel more comfortable with moving forward? What information do you still need to know?
  • Relate it to something they already understand

Teenagers have a lot going on, but not as much capacity to handle the stressors of everyday life. One way to try to break through with a resistant teenager is by using analogies that might make more sense to them. Mental health is an intimidating topic and can lead to feelings of failure, fear, and defensiveness. 

For example, if you teenager plays sports such as soccer, it might make sense to draw a parallel between needing a soccer coach to teach you the rules of the game, techniques for improving your ball skills, and strategies for the team to play defense and offense. No one is born knowing these things and we need a teacher to enlighten us. This type of analogy may soften their resistance and pique some curiosity. 

Get Them to Be Curious

Combined, all these strategies are geared toward lessening the fear/vulnerability/nervousness/sadness/etc your teen is feeling when you bring up options for getting some help. The conversations should help them feel like they are being supported instead of attacked. This may take some time and multiple conversations. A notable win is if your teenager starts asking questions about the help. If you notice this shift, you are making progress. At this point in the conversation, give your teen some autonomy in how they would like to move forward. 

Ask them: 

  • What do you want to get out of this if we do it?
  • What type of mentor-coach/therapist/tutor/etc would you be comfortable working with?
  • What do you need help with right now? 

Don’t Give Up

Teens can be difficult, stubborn, and emotional. This is normal. As our founder says, ‘we’re dealing with the hardest type of human – a teenager.’ As their parent or guardian it is extremely important to stay calm and persistent if you truly believe this assistance is needed. Don’t give in or give up on providing support simply because they say no – that will only make them feel like it wasn’t valuable enough in the first place. You will slowly start to build trust with your teenager as you continue to have this conversation. As stated before, it is unlikely one conversation will convert a resistant teenager. It will take time and patience. Positive Presence is happy to support parents with these difficult conversations by providing a free 1:1 call with one of our trained mentors. This opportunity can help build much-needed trust and interest in further exploring that relationship. It can also allow the mentor-coach to better understand the needs of the teenager so they can explain the potential benefits.

For more information about setting up a 1:1 consultation, please fill out this form. 

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Jessica Waugh

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Jessica has roughly 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, curating premier wine programs in Las Vegas and developing educational programs for the largest beverage distribution company in North America. In 2022, Jessica altered her focus and is now utilizing her educational, management, and organizational skills to positively impact others on a grander scale. She is now developing multiple modalities focused in emotional intelligence, executive functioning, meta-learning, and positive psychology for struggling teens and young adults.

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Meditating with sound bowls!

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Missy is a revitalized mother of two teenagers who understands the resilience it takes to raise children in the midst of a global pandemic. She is a passionate mentor because she recognizes there isn’t nearly enough support for the overwhelming number of people silently struggling. Her sincere and compassionate personality is what makes her thrive as a coach and a leading member of our company. As our Sales manager she recognized that her role is to listen and learn as much about your child (or yourself) as possible. While listening, I am identifying a mentor coach that I believe your child will not only like based on their personality, but also one who has experienced and overcome similar pain points, and areas of opportunity, optimizing relatability. Ultimately, setting your child up for growth and fulfillment socially, mentally, and physically. 

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

My Favorite Mindful technique is to Shifting Thought Patterns by focusing on the Grounding Technique. Starts with a big belly breath in. Then, you tap into your 5 senses, to quickly and effortlessly shift your current focus. Choose a sense- any sense, and count down from 5 (order or senses can be altered): 5 things you see, 4 things you smell, 3 things you feel, 2 things you hear, 1 thing you taste.

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