As parents, we want open communication with our children, so it can be encouraging when your teen comes to you with a problem. However, in these moments, it can be tempting to immediately tell your teen what they should do and possibly—even if unintentionally—pass judgment on their situation. Instead, here are some ways you can strive to listen to your teen without making them feel as though their actions are being judged.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Sometimes, perspective is everything. Understanding where your teen is coming from can help you feel more empathetic when your teen comes to you with a problem. Try to make an effort to consider what pressures your teen is facing and why they’re coming to you. It could be that they can’t talk to their friends, or that they feel an adult would know how to handle the issue. From this view, you can see your teen’s perspective on the situation rather than simply imposing your own.
If you’re not sure what your teen is thinking or feeling when they share with you, just ask! Questions that clarify the situation can help develop your understanding of the situation while also demonstrating that you’re actively listening to your teen. Asking questions also helps you avoid making assumptions when there are gaps in their story. When possible, specifically asking how they feel can further strengthen your sense of empathy.
Allow for Silence
When we face uncomfortable or serious topics, it can be tempting to fill silences with excess chatter. In conversations, silence can be ok! In fact, it allows both people to process what’s being discussed. Silence also shows that you’re taking the time to consider your teen’s situation—not simply lecture them on what you think is best.
Focus on the Positive
Most of us are pretty good at being hard on ourselves and the same might be true for your teen. They might be coming to you feeling discouraged or unsure of how to act. Expressing disapproval of their already stressful situation won’t help your teen resolve their problem. Instead, try pointing out positive moments in their circumstances, noting moments where you felt they demonstrated a positive action. Sometimes encouragement can go a long way in helping your teen make better choices. At the end of the day, try to keep in mind that your teen is learning and growing, and the fact that they want to share these experiences with you is a gift.
These tips will help you consider your teen’s problems with an open mind. Listening is a skill that can take some time to master, but fortunately, there are resources you can use to help you become a better listener. Improving that skill can help improve your relationship with your teen, and help them feel more comfortable coming to you the next time they encounter a problem.
Feature Photo: Azrul Aziz