How often do we find ourselves in communication with someone where we realize we’re just missing each other? Where the person we’re talking to isn’t actually hearing what we’re trying to communicate? When it comes to parent-child communication, especially during the adolescent years, this can often become the norm.
In this episode, Clinical Therapist Nick Lenderking-Brill offers perspective on why this stage is so hard for both kids and parents and how parents can improve their communication and listening skills to have more effective and meaningful conversations with their children. He outlines some of the most common communication mistakes parents make and offers tools and strategies they can use instead, providing plenty of examples of what these methods might look like in real-life conversations.
Open Sky blog: Family Connection in the Digital Age: Tips for Reconnecting
Nick, a Boston native, has always been fascinated by humans and how they interact. He earned his Bachelor’s of Arts in English from the University of Virginia, largely to delve deeper into the arts of communication and expression. His 12 years of experience working with individuals and families led him to a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Naropa University.
From organizing and leading backpacking trips for teenagers, to supporting displaced families in urban Brazil, to teaching English to schoolchildren in Thailand, Nick has found joy and fulfillment in serving others through the connective tissue of human relationships. Since childhood, he remembers feeling a sense of solace in nature. In 2013, he thru-hiked the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. During this journey, Nick experienced his own “wilderness therapy,” and knew he needed to help others heal, using nature as a backdrop. His passion took him to Colorado in 2015, where he decided to concentrate his Master’s degree in the field of Wilderness Therapy. As a therapist, Nick has facilitated equine-assisted interventions, rock-climbing interventions, group work while actively canoeing, and therapeutic backpacking trips. Aside from his work at Open Sky, he has worked at a counseling agency leading groups and performing individual therapy with folks who suffer from addiction.
The wilderness heals, but not without the support of an entire family system. Nick was drawn to Open Sky because of its familial approach, and he began his journey here in June 2018 as a Family Services Therapist. His unique experience facilitating Family Quests, Wellness Weekends, Graduation Ceremonies, and Parent Coaching Calls deeply informs his work as a clinical therapist for adolescent boys. Through his experience, he has learned that healing occurs in relationship: a system must work together to heal all of its individual parts.
Nick uses a humanistic approach in therapy. He believes that all beings are basically good, yet we are subject to several difficulties simply by being alive. He is direct but compassionate with his adolescent boys–he knows how to push them into their work in a playful way, because after all, he was once an adolescent boy too! Nick finds the most value in life through interpersonal connection, and it is his goal as a therapist and human to have meaningful interactions with everyone he encounters. Rather than seeking to fix people’s problems, Nick hopes to empower people to reach their own goals.
He specializes in addiction counseling, attachment issues, trauma-informed therapy, depression, anxiety, and screen overuse. His own research includes the ways in which screen overuse affects the developing brain. Nick is fascinated by neurology and mindfulness, and often brings current research into his work with students and families.
At the end of the day, Nick just wants to understand why we do the things we do. He is curious and wants to learn. Over anything else, Nick appreciates a good conversation. Aside from spending time outdoors, Nick adores Boston sports, a quirky novel, and playing his guitar.
I think kids, like all of us, want to be understood. This isn’t always possible. And sometimes we simply don’t understand. And sometimes that’s okay. All that we and kids really need is to be heard, simply to be validated, simply to be listened to.
What kids really need from their parents is a deep sense of unconditional love, knowing that no matter what they do, their parents are going to be there for them. Their parents are going to love them. It doesn’t need to mean a parent accepts all their kid’s choices. It doesn’t need to mean a parent agrees with all their kid’s choices. But a kid does need to know that a parent is going to love them for who they are and not for what they do.
First and foremost, it’s so important to be gentle with yourself. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with your family too. It is totally OK to make mistakes. The point is not perfection…It’s so much more beneficial to try and make mistakes and maybe not totally hit the mark than not try at all.
I think that kids love to hear that their parents aren’t perfect. I think they need to hear that their parents aren’t perfect, that they’re walking this path together.
On a wilderness trip in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1995, Emily discovered she could combine two of her passions: working with youth and being outdoors. Since then, she has worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and Connecticut Wilderness School. She was part of the founding team at Open Sky.
Emily worked as the lead therapist for adolescent girls for her first 5 years at Open Sky. Her areas of clinical expertise include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, disordered eating, and adoption and attachment issues. Her clinical approach is informed by cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories. Relationship building through letter writing is a major focus of her work with students and families.
As a founder and owner of Open Sky, as well as the Clinical and Executive Director, Emily brings a breadth of knowledge with her background as a therapist, field guide, trainer, logistics coordinator, emergency responder, and field director, Emily is known for her direct, caring leadership style, her ability to inspire excellence in others, and her team oriented approach. The student treatment plan is her compass for her decision-making regarding Open Sky’s students, families, and employees.
Emily loves reading, writing, yoga, mountain biking, telemark skiing, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, and cooking with foods from the local farmers’ market.