Getting a Sense of Adolescence
Connecting with Your Teen through Attentive Listening
Photo by @talen
As your child grows, you will slowly notice how aging changes the way they interact with you as their parent. While infants and children up to age 12 may be more receptive of the guidance that you are providing as their mom or dad, trying a similar approach towards teenagers may not go as smoothly.
When a child reaches adolescence, they begin to show signs of maturity, not just mentally but also physically and socially. They begin to develop the ability to think abstractly, become more concerned with complex topics such as philosophy, politics, and social issues, think long-term, set personal goals, and compare themselves with their peers. They may begin to struggle with independence and control, but you should not fight fire with fire. A recent study showed that an effective way to make teens open up more is not through talking back at them or reprimanding them – instead, by taking a more retrospective and understanding approach through attentive listening.
The University of Reading in England teamed up with researchers to observe how parents and teenagers work through a difficult situation, with the parent adopting different body language and listening behaviors. This resulted to the conclusion that in parent-teenager relationships, listening quietly and intently to teens while making them feel valued and appreciated for their honesty has a profound impact on their willingness to share more of themselves.
If you want to practice attentive listening and gain more insights on what your teenaged son or daughter is going through, try these engaged listening techniques:
Pay attention. As your child speaks, focus on the moment. Make eye contact and nod to let them know that while you are staying silent, you are following along and trying to make sense of their every word.
Do not judge. To be successful in listening actively, one must keep an open mind. Weighing in on a subject without getting the full context behind it will only discourage your child from having a conversation with you.
Reflect what you hear. Reflecting means being on the same page with the person that you’re talking to. This technique helps in eliminating any ambiguity that might arise around certain topics. Usually, it is manifested through paraphrased parts of the story being told.
Clarify things you don’t understand. Instead of making assumptions to look more reliable, ask questions to get answers that will provide a better foundation for you in helping your child deal with their situation. This invites a thoughtful response and fosters a spirit of collaboration.
Summarize the information. Restating key points in the discussion solidifies your understanding of your child’s position and motivations. This also increases accountability between you and your kids, as you take an unbiased look at the problem at hand and think of ways to solve it.
Share from your own experiences. Once your child is done sharing their piece, you can introduce thoughts and express your feelings about the matter. Draw from your own experiences too, and show that you can relate to them and you are there for them in good times and bad.
In dealing with teenagers, it is best to take a more peaceful and introspective route. It is a sensitive time for them, so apply tender love and care during your conversations. Listen first, and think things through together.