You’ve noticed changes in your teenager’s sleeping or eating habits. Their energy level has dropped, and their grades are slipping. Even their personality seems different; maybe your once jovial child isn’t displaying their usual sense of humor.
When parents notice warning signs like these, the first place to start is to have a conversation with your teen. But when it comes to adolescents, that may be easier said than done.
It can be tempting for parents to slip into “problem-solving mode.” You’re worried and want to help, so you start throwing solutions at your kid, hoping something you say sticks.
Instead, what your teen really wants is to feel heard and understood.
So how can you do that for your son or daughter? By practicing active listening.
What does active listening look like?
- Be patient. Give your teen time to speak and try not to interject too much.
- Make eye contact.
- Nod to show you’re paying attention.
- Validate their feelings.
- Ask non-judgmental questions.
- Don’t overdo it, but make sure they feel heard.
It’s a good idea to be thoughtful about where and when the conversation happens. Choose a comfortable place and a time conducive for an extended chat. Start by describing your concerns. Avoid offering advice right away. Actively listen and be supportive. A good question to ask your teen is: “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Often just talking things through can make a world of difference for your teen. And by approaching conversations this way, it’s more likely he or she will come to you in the future for another chat.
Information provided by EAP Counselor Jacob Johnson, MS, LAPC