Communication issues between parents and teens are common concerns in therapy. The rapid physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that happen during adolescence can put a strain on parent-child relationships. Teens often feel misunderstood, and parents often feel at a loss for how to help. Developing a practice of active listening can bridge the gap.
Active listening is a powerful tool for effective communication. It is different from offering comfort, advice, or solutions in moments of distress. Instead, it is a form of deeper listening paired with verbal and non-verbal cues to show teens we are seeking to understand them and their experiences.
How Does Active Listening Work?
Active listening works by creating new patterns of communication. Instead of listening with the intent to resolve an issue or problem, this new pattern asks the listener to listen for the sake of listening. Studies show that incorporating this type of communication can encourage teens to share their struggles, even when they don’t quite know how to express what they need or feel. Over time, the use of active listening can not only increase the likelihood that your child will come to you with a concern but also builds stronger relationships by reducing conflict due to misunderstandings.
Tips To Actively Listen
- Focus your full attention. Clear distractions like phones and TV’s.
- Body language is key. Try using eye contact, leaning in, nodding or smiling.
- Ask questions to clarify what the issue is, and more importantly what it means to them.
- Summarize what you’ve heard and allow space for them to clarify
- Get comfortable sitting in silence to see where the conversation goes.
- Ask your child to share their perspective before offering your own. This will help them develop their own problem-solving skills
Improving communication in any relationship requires practice and patience but incorporating active listening can help. Give these tips a try to see what works best for you and your teen!
Written by: Lorena Quinones