Parent-Teen Communication: Active Listening


Most of the parent-teen communication problems stem from their opposing parent and teen life development roles. The parents’ job is to insure the safety and welfare of their children, which imposes a certain amount of control. Teens’ job is, on the other hand to thrive to separate from their parents in order to determine their own identity. In this case, a healthy communication remains the best way in strengthening parent-teen relationship.

Active listening is a crucial ingredient to improving communication with your children. Your children will get the message that they are important enough to have your full attention. The process includes the following components, easier said than done, yet practice remains the only way to master it:

  • Your child makes a statement about something that she wants you to understand
  • You repeat the important points of what you heard her say starting with: “if I understood” and ending with: “Is that correct? Or “Am I right?”
  • Your child then gives you feedback as to whether or not you understood her correctly. If you did not understand what he said, make the statement again, with a bit more clarification and end with: “is that what you meant?” He will then once again reflect back to you what was heard. This back and forth process –during which you make NO judgment-, continues until your child acknowledges that you heard correctly what was said.

To put it all together, active listening will sound like this: “If I understand, you are sad because your friends have decided not to befriend you anymore and that breaks your heart. Am I right?”

If your teens agree that what you heard is what they said and they have asked for an answer, give one but refrain from fixing the problem (offer your help instead)

Learning to communicate in a manner that can be heard by your teens requires lots of practice (with some mistakes), patience and persistence. Lack of a healthy communication with your teens, on the other hand, will lead to an ongoing tension and platonic relationship in the family. It may be helpful to seek the support of a mental health professional if you experience frequent communication issues.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

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