Understanding Strengths to Better Communicate with Teens

Understanding Teen Strengths


We all know that strength is what is at the heart of this blog so what better theme to kick off our 5 Minute Insight column? Quick, concise and thought provoking, this expert corner will help make our lives easier, better, stronger, more meaningful. It might be a tidbit on boosting self-confidence in teens, a nutritionist’s approach to eating better, a yoga instructor with a five-minute meditation…the possibilities are endless!

Resident Expert:

Colleen Boselli, a strength strategist, Strength Catalyst Partners.


Colleen is a strengths guru! She has turned her passion into her life’s mission: improving the lives of others, one mom… dad… teen… student… teacher… administrator, at a time. Her tools include the Strengths Profile and Via Survey of Character Strengths. She works with clients to help define, understand and embrace individual strengths so that they can lead more energized, fulfilling lives.

Today we are excited to learn how using strengths can help us build up our teens and improve our communications and relationships with them.

RSG: Why is it more important to build on your strengths rather than improving weaknesses?

CB: The amount of energy it takes to improve a weakness provides far less reward than putting the same energy into making more of your strengths.  I am not advocating that we ignore our weaknesses, but there are definitely ways that everyone can leverage their strengths to compensate for a weakness. For example, if you are weak at Organizing but have a strength in Creativity, you can use your Creativity to establish a novel type of organizing system that is fun for you to adopt!

RSG: How many possible strengths are there in the tools you use?

CB: I love the Strengths Profile tool because there are 60 strengths in everyone’s summary report. That gives you a lot to work with! The VIA survey is also a valuable option. This report shows you a list of 24 strengths in descending order from what most resonates with you to what least resonates with you.

RSG: How could your expertise help this audience of teen moms.

CB: Moms who identify their strengths can easily discover what energizes them and what drains them. Once we identify our own source of energy and fatigue we can make wiser choices about how we spend our time when the kids are in school. If we are energized by daily activities, we can be more patient when our teens come home with their challenges. In addition, when a mom is clearer on her own strengths, and particularly which strengths she might occasionally overdo, she is more likely to identify, appreciate and tolerate the strengths that her teens use.

RSG: What’s more important, identifying your own strengths to communicate better with your teen or understanding their strengths?

CB: It has to start to start with the mom. We cannot change someone else’s behavior. We can only change our own behavior or how we frame or communicate with someone else. It is absolutely important to understand our teen’s strengths as well as our own. But, we have a greater chance of positively impacting our relationship with our teens if we manage ourselves wisely first.

RSG: How do we spot our own teen’s strengths if they haven’t taken one of the surveys you reference above?

CB: Pay close attention to what gives them joy, when are they feeling accomplished and when they are they proud. When are they enthusiastic about what they are doing? Chances are these activities are driven by a number of strengths being used. Once you identify several situations that have these positive characteristics  —  think hard about the common behaviors across the activities. Is she Creative? Is she Planful? Is your teen Empathetic toward other people? Does she use Humor frequently? Highlighting her strengths will build her self-confidence and give you clues about how to motivate her in times when she is not sure how to start, or where to go.

RSG: What is the right time/age for teens to take The Strengths Profile of Via survey? Why?

CB: The Strengths Profile is written at a 14-year-old reading level. Sometimes we can complete it with younger children, but we need to make sure they understand each question to answer it properly. The VIA survey has a youth version written for age eight and above.

RSG: Can you share an example of how a teen might use her strengths to solve a real life problem?

CB: My daughter’s strengths are Bravery, Humor and Zest. When she entered high school this year, the ninth grade students consisted of her friends from the middle school that filtered into the high school. Introduced into her high school were a new group of girls who attended different local middle schools. She came to me and asked how she could include the new group of girls with her existing friend group. I reminded her of these strengths and encouraged her to think of ways to use them to embrace this opportunity. She used her humor to engage with and bring new girls into the fold. She decided to be brave and try out for sports she didn’t know she would be good at  —  and she encouraged others to try it with her. She used her zest to create a fun beginning of the school year b-day party.

Essential Mom Advice:

CB: As the mom of two girls (one in her twenties and a 15yo), I feel like I’ve seen and heard just about everything. My essential advice is: Be sure you have activities in your life every day that fill your bucket so that when your teens are home you are feeling good about yourself and full of energy for the important role of parenting your girls. This can take on many different forms – fulfilling work, volunteer activities, even everyday chores – as long as you draw upon your energizing strengths every day. A mom sets the tone in the house and deserves to be fulfilled and energized by her time away from the teens. When mom is fulfilled, she is a fantastic role model and she creates a positive, healthy environment in which everyone can thrive and feel strong.


  1. Great advice about balancing the need to fulfill your own needs with fulfilling the needs of your daughters and family. Always lead from the front! If you feel good about your own contributions, then your daughters will see this and relate positively.

  2. I am and loving every minute of it. Thank you for being my first expert! I hope you’ll come back to teach us more.

  3. Thanks for sharing this interview with your readers, Erin. I hope you are using many of your strengths in this new endeavor. Congratulations on bringing this to life. Colleen