I hear time and time again from the adolescents I see in my therapy practice that they do not feel heard by the adults in their lives.
Research suggests that adolescents offer more information when they feel someone is listening. As a parent of three adult children, there have been times when I have forgotten to “ask” rather than “tell.” I encourage parents to take the time to ask your adolescent a specific question every day; something like “what was the best part of your day?” or “what makes science difficult?” Specific enough that a one word answer will not suffice. Let your adolescent know you hear what they are saying by “reflecting” it back to them (e.g.. “You are saying…”). Follow up only with clarifying questions (e.g. “So you are wondering …?”). Avoid conversation stoppers that admonish, advise, or problem solve.
We want very much to make life easier for our kids, but jumping in to solve their problems or advise them can feel like a vote of “no confidence.” It takes away the autonomy they need to find their own paths. Often being a good listener means “using silence” to allow the speaker time to think things through for themselves. Showing understanding with a simple “uh-huh” or “that must be difficult” is enough to keep them talking it through. It is important for adults to support an adolescent’s process, not to control it. A supportive conversation with a young person can be the best gift for both of you this holiday season.
To receive more information on family therapy, please contact me at 847-432-4981
CTAD Coalition Member