Teens tell me that they don’t talk to their parents because their parents don’t listen.
I wanted to think that this was not true for me and my teen, but then I observed myself, and have to admit that sometimes I don’t listen properly.
When your child comes to you with something that is bothering her, it is easy to think that she wants you to solve her problem. Actually, a part of her might, but mostly what she really wants from you, and needs, is for you to listen.
This idea is so simple. So simple that we can dismiss it. Or assume that we are already doing it. Just check that you are – it is hard just to listen.
It is so tempting for adults to see solutions and offer suggestions. We think that we can short-cut a child’s learning process by sharing our experience and wisdom. We want to rescue our child from their distress.
A test: next time your child has troubles – listen, just listen. Say very little. Just make encouraging noises to let your child know that you are paying attention and want to hear more.
Children want to feel heard.
They usually do not want advice, or suggestions, a great long chat, or a big lecture.
They want to hear themselves think out loud; and often that way they will work out their own solutions – maybe not in one go – you may have to leave her to mull it over (which may feel uncomfortable).
Do not assume that if she does not raise the topic again that it is resolved. Ask her about it a few days later and let her know that you are open to hearing more.