Honing Your Listening Skills: Tips for Listening as a Parent

Teens need to be able to talk to their parents. Open lines of communication between parents and children not only help everything run smoother; they bring families together and strengthen relationships.

Too often we hear people speak without really understanding what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. If we slow down for a moment, we can give others the attention they need to fully understand them and to make them feel heard. Listening to your teen lets them know that you value what they think and that they are worth your time. It will build their confidence and make them feel loved.

Prioritize the Conversation

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There are lots of little ways to show someone that you care about what they’re saying. The first thing you need to do is to prepare your mind to listen. Stop rushing, stop multi-tasking and stop assuming you know what your teen is going to say before they’ve said it.

Open Your Mind

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Get ready to hear what they’re saying without judgement. Be unflappable. If you keep calm, your teen will feel more at ease bringing up a difficult subject.

Body Language

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Show you are listening with how you carry yourself. Use “open” body language. Uncross your arms and legs and turn towards them. Relax your facial muscles and keep a neutral and encouraging expression.

Put down your phone or anything else distracting. Face the speaker, and look them in the eye as they’re talking. Be relaxed and non-threatening, but totally focused on them.

Wait Your Turn

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It may seem obvious, but don’t interrupt. If you’re distracted or in a rush to get to something else, you might tend to finish their sentences for them. While this may seem like active participation, it could frustrate them and make them feel like what they’re saying isn’t important to you.

Show them that you’re invested in what they’re saying by throwing in something encouraging and affirming their feelings when they take a pause. Ask questions only to clarify what they mean. If you start a different line of questioning, you could take the focus away from what they wanted to share.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

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Empathize with your child. Try to feel what they’re feeling as their talking. This is a tool to help make you more receptive to whatever they are saying. This is especially important if you two have a difference of opinion. Imagining how they’re feeling will help you to understand their point of view without being clouded by your own preconceptions.

After listening to whatever is on your teen’s mind, take some time to process. They might ask you for advice. Sometimes though, they just need to get something off their chest, like a bad day at school or a frustrating experience at soccer practice. The simple act of listening carefully and being there can do your teen a lot of good.

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