What do adolescents need from their parents that is different from what they needed as younger children? They actually continue to need the same loving care but in new ways that respect the growing autonomy of the adolescents. Central to the teenagers’ needs is the ability of their parents to listen to them carefully, respecting their ideas, points of view, feelings, opinions, and intentions. This requires nonjudgmental listening without interrupting or blaming the teen as they speak. When a teen feels heard, she feels respected and forms a good relationship with her parent.
How does a parent effectively listen to their teen?
It is imperative that the parent takes the time needed to have both casual and serious discussions with their teen. Beginning with casual discussions opens the door to conversations about more serious issues. Hanging out with your teen, visiting in the car, doing chores together, setting rules and boundaries together all allow the teen to feel convinced that their parent cares for them respectfully. Respect is key to having your adolescent want to talk with you often and openly.
Listening is an art. Parents who listen actively find they learn about what is on the minds of their teens that they didn’t know about. They learn their teen’s points of view, philosophies of life, feelings about their peers and other adults in their environment. If parents don’t interrupt their child’s words with their own points of view, they will find the teen is very open and willing to share their ideas and feelings with gratitude toward the listening parent.
- Do not interrupt with your own points of view even if they are diametrically opposed to your teen’s views. Make sure the teen is finished explaining their vantage point.
- Do not get distracted by your phone or other children’s needs when talking to your teen. Let them know this is their time with you.
- Extend the conversations by always asking your teen to tell you more details about their views before extending your opinions. Open ended statements like, “Please tell me more about that. I want to understand better” are very effective in helping the youngster elaborate on their thoughts.
- Ask your teen if they want to know your point of view before expressing it. They will appreciate the time you take to involve them in the decision to hear you out.
- If you want to inquire about your child’s behavior, be specific about the actions they are taking that you question. Remember not to be blameful and judgmental, just inquisitive. This is a good time to discuss if curfews are needed, Often teens feel very respected if they are told to make wise decisions on their own about when to come home in the evening.
- Praise your teen for thinking through their ideas. Let them know that you are aware that they are good judges of their actions and beliefs. Kids appreciate your acceptance of their positive intentions to cooperate with you and collaborate on rules.
How to Give Advice to a Teen
When you feel your teen needs advice about relationships, sex and drugs, emotional changes such as mood swings, ask them if they are open to you talking about these topics. If they are not, refrain and wait until they are more willing to open up to you. You can share your discomforts and feelings with your teens openly by expressing them forthrightly: “I feel concerned when you are in a lousy mood. Can we discuss that? I want to help.” By sticking to a question format, you will not be intrusive or undermine their privacy issues. Again, respect is key.
Problem Solving with Your Teen
Once communication is open, you can address what the teen and/or you view as problems in your relationship. Teens need to know you respect their boundaries and secrets that you should not be privy to. Ask if there are discomforts in the teen’s relationship with you that you can ease together. The teen will be most appreciative of your honesty and forthrightness in this regard.
If you have a specific problem in mind, spell it out honestly without judgment and ask your child how to solve it. Prioritize problems. Messy rooms aren’t important compared to getting a good night’s sleep. Discuss with your teen what problems they think need to be solved and collaborate together to find out their motivations and what will meet their needs and your own.
Relating to your teen is not as difficult as parent’s imagine. Kids who feel they can talk with their caring parents push back much less and rebel less often because they feel heard and understood. It needn’t be a turbulent time if communication is open and honest.