Do you ever wish your teen would unplug and talk with you? It can be incredibly frustrating when you want to learn about what’s going on in a young person’s life and you are met with the back of their cell phone … or the back of their head.
I am going to challenge you to take a different perspective on this lack of communication. One of the things I hear most from teens is that their parents (and adults in general) don’t listen to them. I know you are probably thinking “of course I listen to my teen” but go back your last conversation. Were you REALLY listening or were you planning your next comment? How did you let your teen know you were listening?
The thing is, teens often walk away from a conversation with an adult not feeling heard, particularly if it was a disagreement or argument. Young people don’t want to talk with adults who they don’t think listen to them. Adults get frustrated by the lack of communication and resort to combat tactics to get anything to come out of their mouths. Sound familiar?
Listening is the most important part of good communication. Isn’t it so much nicer to talk to someone who is paying attention? Teens feel the same way. Here are some things you can do to show your teen you are listening:
- Repeat what you have heard. This is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do with anyone to let them know you are listening. After you teen tells you something, use your own words to repeat back to them what you heard. This not only lets them know you heard them, but can clarify a misunderstanding and help you concentrate more on what they are saying than what you will say next.
- Be genuinely interested. Teens (in fact, most people) can tell when you are simply going through the motions. When you are listening ask relevant follow-up questions so they know you are paying attention. Try to really understand where they are coming from, not just the words they are using.
- Listen without judging. Even if you disagree with what your teen is telling you try to listen without immediately telling them what you think, telling them that they are wrong or getting upset. Many teens do not want to share with adults because they think they are being judged. Aren’t we all entitled to our own opinion?
- Control your emotions. A negative emotional outburst from you will likely stop your teen from talking or start an argument. If you are upset at what you are hearing let your teen finish and then let them know how you are feeling as calmly as possible. Of course, if your teen is excited definitely let them know if you are excited too!
- Use non-verbal communication. Look at your teen while they are talking, you need to unplug too. Nod your head and use other cues, like facial expressions, to show that you are paying attention.
- Be consistent! We all know that teens have a very strong sense of fairness and dependability. If you are only a good listener some of the time they will have a hard time sharing with you.
The teens I know, want to be able to talk with the important adults in their lives. They want to share what’s happening in their lives and what they think about and what they want to do in the future. They want to talk with someone who will listen, don’t you?
Try out some of these listening strategies and see what happens. Remember, being a good listener takes practice. It won’t happen overnight, and maybe not in every situation, but your teen is much more likely to open up when they know you are really hearing what they are saying.
What other ways do you show the teens in your life that you are listening?
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