If there’s one thing I wish parents would understand it’s this, “What you say to your child may not be as important as listening to them.”
Most misunderstandings and arguments between parents and their kids, especially teens, are caused by miscommunication. Parents don’t listen to the teens and teens, in turn, feel that their parents just don’t get it.
If we’re being really honest, most of us parents will admit we’re poor listeners. It’s one of the mistakes we make when trying to connect with our teens. We fall into the trap of wanting to help them too much. We believe that we’ve gone through similar experiences and that puts us in a position to give them advice.
Unfortunately, in an effort to pass this hard-earned wisdom to our kids, we often end up lecturing them and sending an unintended message that we don’t care about their feelings. Our teens then clam up and whenever we try to initiate conversation we’re met with those one-word responses that we find so frustrating.
Improving Communication with Our Kids
If you want to mprove communication with your kids, you have to become an active listener. Instead of trying to force-feed them advice, become more mindful of what’s happening in their lives. Once they realize you’re interested in what they’re going through, your teens will naturally open up and talk to you, improving your relationship.
Here are some listening tips to try out:
- Be in the moment. Give your child your full attention when they’re talking to you. That’s not the time to multitask or check messages on your phone. Be fully present in the moment, make eye contact and pay attention to what they’re saying.
- Watch your body language. Nothing says you’re not interested better than your non-verbal cues and your body language. So when your teen wants to talk, skip the eye-rolls and heavy sighs and really tune in. If they’ve caught you at a bad time, let them know and make time for them later on when you can give them your undivided attention.
- Be empathetic. You might have had similar experiences to your child but you need to remember that they’re going through the complexities of life for the first time. They need to feel validated from their own experience so put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective before you respond.
- Give your teen time to talk. Resist the urge to interrupt your teen as they’re talking. You might not agree with whatever they’re saying but that’s no reason to butt in with snide comments, witty comebacks, unhelpful suggestions or unwanted advice. Allow them to finish what they’re saying then take some time to figure out how you want to respond and how to best put it.
- Ask follow-up questions. Another great way to be an active listener is by asking follow-up questions. This shows your teen that you’re paying attention and that you’re interested in understanding whatever they’re saying.
You can also rephrase their words to encourage them to explain themselves further. Say something like, “Let me see if I’ve understood. What you’re saying is…” Then give them a chance to clarify what they meant.
- Don’t rush to fix things. Sometimes teens just need to vent or are just looking for a soundboard to bounce ideas off of. They’re not looking for you to fix things for them. Rushing in with solutions and fixes means that you’re making the issue about yourself. So whenever your teen comes to you with a problem, brainstorm and help them come up with a solution for themselves. Simply asking, “What would you like to do about it?” can help start the problem-solving process.
When it comes to helping your child, it’s always better to listen to them first instead of jumping to give them advice. Once they feel heard and understood, they’ll be more open to hearing your opinions and suggestions.
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