Few things fuel teen angst better than a parent who tries, and fails, to act like they get it. After all, everyone involved knows it’s mostly a charade: The teenage brain is such a strange and wild and constantly changing place that, much of the time, even teens don’t really understand whatever it is they’re going through. If a parent wants to play the relatable card, a better tactic might be: Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on with you, either. Sorry.
And as writer Juli Fraga recently explained for NPR, throwing your hands up and declaring defeat may, paradoxically, be the thing that gets a teenager to listen. “When adolescents are distressed, most parents are inclined to try to solve their problems,” she wrote, “but often what teens really need is help developing problem-solving skills of their own.”