When I was still a mom of little girls, an older friend of mine was dealing with teenagers, so I asked her for a piece of advice regarding raising teens. She calmly said, “When they tell you something, don’t let your expression show what you may really be thinking of the information they are sharing with you.” She gave me some examples and I thought this will definitely be useful. And now that I have a teen and even a tween, I have put what she said into practice many times.
In order to incorporate this wise advice, we as parents need to be mindful of how we are listening to our teens. Are we fully present to them when they decide to share with us? And as my friend pointed out, are we showing a face of non-judgment as they share? Are we listening to them fully or are we interrupting them? As our tweens and teens are telling us something whether it is haphazardly as they hop out of the car or if they are sitting with us and really having a moment of sharing, remember to be a face of calm for them. They are telling us these stories in order to help them process whatever it is and if we over-react, they may not share again. Our role is to listen without judgment and then once we’ve comprehended what they are saying, why they are telling us, and what they are looking for from us, then after we have taken it all in, that’s when we are best able to respond to them. We don’t want to just react part way through by cutting them off and thus stop them from finishing their story. We want to thoughtfully respond to them and do so only after really letting them say all they have to say and that doesn’t happen if we quickly and thoughtlessly let our emotions come roaring out with comments such as “Are you serious?!?!” or a “Did you do that?!?!” or “Holy *&^%@#! You are never allowed to do that, do you understand!!!!” or even just a look of disgust, disbelief or dislike can keep our kids from continuing on with what they were going to say.
We need to remind ourselves they are telling us this for a reason – it’s up to us to listen completely to what they say and then calmly share with them our thoughts on the subject. They may be testing us to see how we react or they may just be having a momentary lapse in judgement about what they are saying out loud…but no matter what if we consciously choose to remain neutral while they are speaking, they will continue to speak. And we want to keep those lines of communication open so we can best help them navigate all the choices they need to be making during this formative and challenging time.
Lastly, as parents we need to also remember to be patient with ourselves as we learn to practice this type of helpful behavior. It takes daily practice, but it is worth it to keep the communication open with our tweens and teens.
Thoughts to keep in mind as we listen to our tweens and teens:
1. Our instinct is to protect our children, but we need to remember that this is a normal developmental stage of life. Teens are among peers who are experimenting and making a wide variety of choices and we need to respect the stage they are in so we can mindfully respond versus just react.
2. Tweens and teens want to connect with their parents. Interestingly enough, a key time to connect with them is right as we first see them after school. An article I read revealed that the # 1 teen pet peeve is when they first see their parents after school and they are given the ‘just one minute finger gesture’ as we finish up a phone conversation. Believe it or not, teens come in ready to talk and even that one gesture of being told to wait a minute, suggests to them that they are not that important and so whatever they came in ready to share is put off and so then when we do turn to them, we’ve missed that key moment. Therefore, we need to be aware of when we will be greeting them and be present at that moment knowing it’s a key time for connection. Being present when our teens are ready to speak is essential and who knows when the moment strikes, but let’s be open to it when it does.
3. If they say something in passing that is concerning, take it in and as long as it doesn’t involve their safety at the moment, then when the time is right, bring it up later after you’ve had time to reflect on what was mentioned.
4. At the end of a conversation where your child shared, let them know you enjoyed it by hugging her or simply thanking him for sharing with you. We want to reinforce the behavior we want and open communication is definitely behavior we want.
Featured Contributor: Amy Collins, M.S Ed.
Amy Collins, founder of Create Clarity, offers workshops to help women clarify who they are, re-awaken their intuition and make a transformational shift to live a more vibrant life. Learning practical tools to become more mindful is empowering. Once learned, these tools last forever. Amy is a Mindful Living Instructor and a certified Creative Insight Journey Instructor.