Todays world is very complex and confusing. This is exactly a time when parents and teenagers need to have open, honest communication. However, many teenagers report feeling frustrated with their parents because they feel that their parents do not listen to them. As a result, many teenagers decide not to listen to their parents. They feel their parents are disrespecting them by not listening, so why should they be respectful to their parents and listen to them. This does create a number of arguments at home because many parents get very upset when they feel their teenagers are not listening to them. Besides arguments, it results in many teenagers getting into trouble because they feel their parents are not listening.
Honestly, the teenagers are probably right at times. Many parents may not really be listening to their teenagers, even though they feel that they are listening. Most people have poor listening skills. These are not skills we are taught in school or at home. Most people tend to be focusing on how they are going to respond to the person talking rather than completely listening to the other person.
Since this is a common issue, what happens when children and teenagers feel that their parents are not really listening to them? What teenagers have told me is that they feel angry and that their parent does not care about their feelings. When teenagers have these feelings they tend to stop talking to their parents and to act out. When they feel that their parents don’t care, they feel like they have permission to do whatever they want and at times they act out using drugs or not going to school as a way to get their parents attention.
Teenagers may act like they know everything and that they are not afraid of anything or confused about what to do, but this is only an act. They do not know how to handle everything and often feel overwhelmed by life choices. As a result they turn to their parents. However, if their parents are not fully listening they feel hurt and rejected. As teenagers their communication skills and reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they don’t know how to let their parents know they feel hurt and rejected. They also do not know how to let you know that they feel you are not listening and they need your help. Most teenagers feel saying they need their parents as a sign of weakness. This is because they are not fully mature and they are still children and they need their parents.
For many parents this may come as a shock. It comes as a shock because of how teenagers tend to react to their parents. Again, because teenagers are not fully mature they tend to act like they know everything and don’t need their parents. However, as I stated above teenagers do need and want their parents support. However, due to their immaturity, teenagers act like they don’t need their parents. However, parents need to understand that teenagers are not fully mature yet and their actions do not always match how they are feeling.
With this being said, it is very important that parents listen to their teenagers. However, since communication skills are a problem for most people especially listening skills, I have provided a list of listening skills that parents may want to try. Remember these skills don’t come naturally to most people so it will take a while for you to improve your skills. Also since teenagers can be confusing at times it makes listening even harder at times. In addition to these skills, if you are listening to your teenager, but you are still confused try asking a clarification question. Repeat back what you thought you heard and ask your teenager if you heard them correctly. This shows you are listening, you care and you want to focus on their concerns. This is exactly what teenagers are wanting from you. Here are the skills you may want to try:
1) Purposefully strive to focus on listening with an open mind, refrain from jumping to conclusions or forming an opinion while your child is talking.
2) Do not hurry them, listening requires patience. Wait for your child’s thoughts to take shape and give time for the words to form and find expression.
3) Always show respect and courtesy in listening to what your child has to say, no matter how much you may disagree with them.
4) Your own body language is important, make eye contact and always provide your attentive and undivided attention.
5) Don’t be thinking about how you will respond as this will take your concentration away from what they are really saying.
6) Exercise awareness of your child’s nonverbal cues, facial expression, tone of voice, body stance, general mood and attitude.
7) Don’t interrupt, hear them out and wait for the appropriate opportunity to ask questions.
8) Always remain calm when listening and never show your personal feelings of anger or disappointment.
9) Think of listening as personal growth as your children will always have something to say which will help you to grow.
10) Practice active listening with your heart to genuinely empathize with your child. Put yourself in their shoes to genuinely understand their feelings and emotions.
Remember this will take time and effort. However, by trying you are improving your relationship with your teenager and this is a tremendous benefit to you and your teenager if you can improve your relationship. Teenagers are facing a great deal of confusing and dangerous situations in today’s world and they need their parents now more than ever. Therefore, by improving your communication with your teenagers, you may help them from getting into trouble or a difficult situation.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.