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Becoming a young adult can be overwhelming. Taking that leap from the protective arms of childhood to the independent world can leave teens feeling unsure and indecisive. For folks with special needs, the leap may feel even bigger. Motivational Interviewing is a respectful and effective way to inspire and enhance motivation for youth of all abilities to change behavior. Here are five things parents and educators might take into consideration about motivation and adolescence.

Ambivalence is normal

The developmental process of adolescence affects a young person’s motivations, decisions and goals.

Partnership is critical

No one likes to be “stuck”. In order to support youth motivation out of ambivalence, it’s important to work together in the youth’s interest.

Respect and empathy go a long way

When you express empathy, honor autonomy and acknowledge strengths, you can help young people discover their own motivations.

Don’t take responsibility for change

Rather than taking personal responsibility for your young person’s motivations, support and guide their own ideas for change. Emphasize personal choice and responsibility.

Ask questions before offering advice

Even when asked for advice, people don’t always want to hear it. When we are hoping someone might consider or act on our ideas, ask about their thoughts and opinions first. Then ask they are interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas before offering suggestions. If they say yes, check back with them by asking their thoughts about your suggestions. It’s what THEY think that matters!

For general information about Motivational Interviewing, visit motivationalinterviewing.org. School teachers and staff interested in MI training opportunities can learn more at: miforschools.org.

Special thanks to Heather Lynch who teaches Motivational Interviewing at Central Oregon Community College. Lynch holds a MA in Counseling Psychology, completed the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) Train New Trainers course and has been learning and teaching MI since 2006.