Being the parent of a teenager applying to college is stressful, but it’s really hard when your teen resists or shuts you out of the application process.

Whether your son or daughter is trying to wing the SATs, ignoring the personal statement or failing to request letters of recommendation in advance, there are plenty of times when you’ll want — or even need — to step in. But how do you do that without making things worse?

Once you start talking, strive to deliver your message with as much compassion and understanding as you can.

Here are four ways to get involved while respecting the young adult your teenager is becoming.

1. Ask for Permission to Share Your Opinion

You might not think you have to — and you don’t really — but this is an empathetic way to demonstrate respect, and it can go a long way when it comes to how your opinion is received. It also gives your son or daughter an element of control, offering them a chance to actually decide if they want to know your thoughts. If they say yes, they’ll be much more willing to hear you out. (If they say no, see Schedule Time for Real Talk.)

Once you start talking, strive to deliver your message with as much compassion and understanding as you can. Jennifer Fairchild, a therapist who works with teenage girls, recommends using what’s called the reflective listening technique, which is simply repeating back what the other person says. For example, if your child says “I can’t talk about schools first thing in the morning,” preface your next statement with “If it frustrates you when I ask about college in the morning, let’s …” Fairchild says this will go a long way “because everyone wants to be heard.”

2. Offer to Be Their Accountability Partner

There is no shame in having an accountability partner at any age, which is why this works. Jordan Schanda of ScholarPrep, a college consulting service she started with her mother following her application process, recommends setting this up from the beginning. If your child agrees, schedule weekly check-ins or status updates so you have a clear sense of what’s getting done and what’s not. There’s only one catch: resist the urge to check in on their progress outside of these meetings, because doing so will most likely create more stress and possibly cause your child to retreat.

3. Schedule Time for Real Talk

Real talk is not merely checking in or offering a reminder. Rather, it is a serious conversation you have when things are simply not getting done or your child has shut you out of the process. Approach this with all the compassion, empathy and support you can muster, because, believe it or not, your child is probably not trying to frustrate you. Scheduling a time will not only create a sense of importance, but it will also give your child a heads-up, which should prevent them from feeling blindsided.

When the time comes, tell them you are genuinely worried that they are not going to meet their deadlines, and that you want to create a plan to help get them back on track. If they do not respond with any kind of urgency, you could tell them you are concerned they are not taking college as seriously as they need to, and that you’d like to know why — no matter what their reason is.

If you can remember being a teenager, then you can probably remember not wanting to talk to your parents.

4. Enlist Outside Help

If you can remember being a teenager, then you can probably remember not always wanting to talk to your parents. This is why Schanda recommends enlisting someone you trust, who isn’t your co-parent, to talk to your teen. It could be the guidance counselor at your child’s school, a family friend, an older sibling or even a therapist. Meet with this person one-on-one first, explain the situation and let them take it from there.

If you’re still not getting through to your teen, Schanda says the best thing you can do is give them some space. That might be what they need to somehow get all their applications in at the eleventh hour — or they might just not come around. If they do not, try introducing the idea of a gap year. Ask them how they would spend that time and listen carefully to what they have to say. They just might surprise you.