Acne Positivity – Parental validation

As a Child Life Specialist working with teens and kids who have special skin, there is one question I get A LOT. "How do I talk to my teenager, when they tell me they don't like how they look?" Parents are so worried that they will say the “wrong thing.” And truthfully, I have spent a lot of my child life career worried about the same thing. Sometimes particularly with our teenagers, our relationships can feel fragile, no matter the strength of our love.

When our teenagers come to us with concerns, particularly related to acne, it is so easy and natural to respond in this way:

"It's just a few pimples! Everyone gets acne when they are a teenager! You are still the most beautiful person in the world! Look at you! And you are smart, brave, strong, and amazing! Those pimples are no big deal! No one even notices them!" 

And listen, mama, you aren’t wrong! But, your kiddo has come to you and revealed that they are struggling with their appearance. They have confessed that they are worried about what others think about how they look. Your son or daughter is divulging a very real concern. If we start by dismissing this real concern, even with truths and genuine compliments, we are often, unintentionally ending the conversation or starting an argument.

Instead, consider starting with acknowledging the concern you have heard and then following up with a question. For example:

"I hate to hear that your acne is bothering you and that you feel like it is making you ugly. (If it will help your parent's heart, you can say, I disagree, but we can talk about that later.) I am so sorry to hear you are feeling this way. What can I do to help you?"   

Other potential follow-up questions/conversation continuers are:

"Tell me more about that. What in particular is bothering you? Is there something you would like to try or you would like help with? Is there something that happened today that is making this especially difficult? What is something that would help you feel better?" 

Mamas and Dads, during this question-and-answer session, you may realize that your son or daughter already had ideas and hopes for what they wanted to try to cope with their acne or deal with it physically, and you can work from there. You may even find that they just wanted to talk to you about it and experience your listening (which, is a huge parenting success! Your kiddo wants your ears and ideas! Yay you!)

And usually, you will find a natural lull or conclusion of the conversation where you can then remind them that acne/struggles with appearance are a natural part of growing up. Then, and only then, you can tell them what has been on your heart and tip of your tongue since the conversation began. That that they are the most beautiful creature that you have ever laid eyes on! And now even though they may roll their eyes, they will be more open to hearing it, because you have truly validated and acknowledged their concerns and helped them discover the power within to work on them!  

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