The Consultant

So you're trying to connect with a teenager and getting nowhere. Try putting her in the role of consultant! 

By Momentous Institute | Nov 21, 2016

So you’ve tried connecting with a teenager about what he’s going through, and you’ve gotten nowhere. (Shocker!) Here’s a strategy that you can try that might help break the ice. Put the child in the role of consultant.

It can look like this. “I have a friend at work whose daughter is going through a hard time. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts or advice that I can share with my friend.”

In doing this, you can get a good sense of what the teenager might think about some sticky issues. You might be surprised to see what he comes up with in response to a certain dilemma.

Now, this isn’t meant to be a sneaky, thinly veiled attempt to get the child to say what you hope he says. If he’s having a hard time getting his homework done, you wouldn’t say, “I have a friend whose son is having a hard time getting his homework done.” He’d see right through that. Rather, this is meant to uncover his thinking about a topic in general. For example, you might say, “My friend’s daughter is thinking about trying out for the band, but she’s not sure if it will be too much work or if she’ll be able to handle it. What do you think?” Or you might say, “My friend’s daughter is getting teased by some older kids at her school and she doesn’t know what to say or do. Do you have any advice?” You might learn that your child has experiences or thoughts about social struggles at his own school, or that he’s also interested in doing more extra curricular activities. You never know what you’ll learn!

In a therapy session or classroom, you can use this same strategy by asking the child to be a consultant for another child. You can say, “I’m meeting with another kid who is going through something. I am not sure what will be helpful to him, so I asked if I could ask around and see if anyone else had any ideas. He said I could. What do you think?”

You can also link it to something that the child is working on, by saying something like, “I know another kid who is struggling with test-taking anxiety. I know you’ve been working really hard on overcoming anxiety. Do you have any tips for this kid?”

Children like to feel like experts - who doesn’t? Putting the child in the role of consultant helps the child feel valuable and important, and helps adults gauge where a child is on certain issues. A win win!