What's Troubling Your Teenager? - Peeling Back the Onion Layers
By V. Michael Santoro, M. Ed.
Onion layers are a good analogy for problem solving. Like onions, problems
can have multiple layers, and if you do not dig deeply enough, you may
end up not solving the real problem.
A good way to indicate whether or not you have "peeled back"
enough layers is to see how you "feel" during the problem
solving process. At times it will seem like you have discovered the
proper solution, but something just doesn't "feel right" about
it. At that point, it is advisable to trust your instincts and discuss
the problem with someone.
I have often said myself, "You know, everything seems right, but
it just doesn't feel right." You may not even be able to articulate
why at the time. Usually, as you discuss it, while reviewing the available
information; and running through the questions you asked to get to that
point; something will trigger a new idea or thought. Then bingo, the
light comes on and you can "feel" that you have the right
Discuss this concept with your teenager. The point
is, even if the current information seems to point to a correct solution,
if it doesn't feel right, continue seeking the right solution until
it does feels right. This is a good time to observe your teen's
What to do
Even if she cannot articulate that something is missing or not right,
her body language will indicate it. They say, "The eyes are the
window to the soul." Check your teenager's eyes, as they will be
a strong indicator of where she is "emotionally" during your
problem solving session. She may be saying the right things but her
eyes may be communicating a totally different message.
A good way to handle this is to say something like, "You know,
I hear what you are saying, but there seems to be something else on
your mind. Why don't you tell me about it?" If she says she isn't
sure, start asking her questions that will help her to visualize and
evaluate her feelings. For example you can ask, "Okay, what are
you feeling? Try to describe it. Or, "What comes to mind when you
are feeling this way?" "Does a particular person come to mind?"
"Is there anything giving you cause for concern?"
Ensure that the questions are open-ended. They should allow your teenager
to think about issues that: 1. May not be at a conscious level or 2.
Is something that she is not willing to face just yet.
"Peeling back the onion layers" will help you to get to the
bottom of what is troubling your teenager. With your
help, she will be able to talk about her thought process, visualize
it, and then tie these pieces of information together so things become
clear. This approach will help you focus on helping your teens
to evaluate their feeling and become better problem solvers.
You can then begin discussing a better solution to her "real"
Copyright 2004 by V. Michael Santoro and Jennifer S. Santoro, All Rights
This article is an excerpt from the book "Realizing the Power
of Love," How a father and teenage daughter became best friends...and
how you can too! By V. Michael Santoro, M. Ed and Jennifer S. Santoro.
For more information visit their Web site at http://www.dads-daughters.com
About the Author
V. Michael Santoro, M. Ed. has ten years of experience as an educator.
He is also certified in Training and Development with over eighteen
years of industry experience. He coauthored, "Realizing the Power
of Love," How a father and teenage daughter became best friends…and
how you can too, with his teenage daughter Jennifer S. Santoro. For
more information visit their Web site: http://www.dads-daughters.com