Actively Listening To Your Teen- A Guide for Frustrated Parents

In the era of near constant distraction from the technology of social media, text messaging, and emails, the art of active listening is being lost. This is especially true for today’s youth, as many troubled teen services have begun teaching courses on becoming an active listener. It’s important for parents, teachers, and anyone investing time into teenagers’ lives to learn how to communicate sensitively and effectively. This will help to dramatically reduce frustration while increasing upbeat, constructive interactions.

Active vs. Passive Listening

Passive listening is an innate skill. The only skill required is to possess all the anatomy necessary to receive sound.  The hum of the refrigerator, the clicks of the keyboard, and the start of a car’s motor are all components of passive listening.  Passive listening is dealing with the background noise of life or what brains do when distracted minds take over attentive ears.  It is a one-way type of communication.

Active listening requires attention. It requires energy and thought as ears not only hear, they interpret what is being received. Active listening is communication with a purpose.  The purpose may be learning what information may be on a test, finding out directions to a new restaurant, or discovering what exciting adventure happened to a friend did after work yesterday. Active listening is especially important to teens because in choosing to share details of their thoughts and lives, they are choosing to develop a relationship. Skilled, active listening always develops stronger interpersonal bonds.

Nonverbal and Verbal Cues in Active Listening

Some great ways to actively engage with a speaker are to display nonverbal cues, which the speaker will implicitly absorb.

  • Smile- Be positive and approachable with a smile.
  • Keep arms neutral. Uncross them and keep them relaxed by your side.
  • Lean forward.  Tilt your body forward, not away, from the speaker.
  • Eye Contact.  Maintaining eye contact expresses honesty and sincerity.
  • Lose the Distractions.  Put away the cell phone. Place it face down on the table or better yet in another room. Turn off the television or the computer. Go to a quieter setting. A distraction-free zone is the best place to communication because it helps focus and concentration.

 Verbal cues are the important ways we keep conversations going. Affirming them with positive words and questions is key.

  • Remember and Restate.  Recollect pieces of information with the speaker to communicate understanding and appreciation of their words.
  • Ask questions. Keep people involved by asking questions which will provoke more conversation. Allow them to ask questions as well. Keep the natural chain of communication rolling.

The Results

The results of active listening will be overwhelmingly positive. Though it takes effort and focus to execute, there is no better way to communicate respect and love to your teen.