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Really Listening to a Teen’s Problems

by Lori Sciame | December 1st, 2011 | Teens

As adults, we tend to forget what it felt like to be a teenager. Think back – remember how your hair would never do what you wanted it to, while each morning you awoke to the appearance of another angry red pimple? What about that time your heart pounded so loudly, you wondered if everyone else could hear it? It happened while at your first high school dance, while on your first date, or that time when the teacher called on you, and you didn’t know the answer.

Life happens, and we age. Our problems become bigger. We have mortgages to pay, jobs to keep, illnesses to recover from, and then — children to take care of. Our former lives as teenagers seem so simple in comparison to what we go through as parents.

But, this does not mean that when your teenager approaches you with his or her problems, that you should respond by saying how easy they have it or that the problem is trivial. This will only push your son or daughter away from you.

I sometimes wonder if parents who say, “My teen won’t talk to me,” have inadvertently shut the communication process down, in part, because of their reaction to teen problems. Would you want to talk about an important issue with someone who tells you that it’s small and unimportant?

What parents of pre-teens and teens need to do in order to really be there for their children is listen in a non-judgmental way. Really hear what your child says – with your full attention and with empathy. Push yourself to remember how hard being a teenager really is…the fears, the heartache, and the hormones, all of it!

Another thing to remember pertains to listening to topics that make you uncomfortable. If you really want to make sure your son or daughter doesn’t experiment with sex or drugs, be prepared to listen to them when they discuss these touchy subjects. I understand that the fact that your child is growing up may be difficult to accept, yet growth has always been inevitable; share in this fabulous journey with your child.

Finally, be prepared to interact with your child when he or she feels ready to talk. It may be an inconvenient time for you, but the benefit of being available whenever your son or daughter needs you is that it sends a clear message – you can be counted on.

Again, I ask you to think back to your own teen years. Did you enjoy a close relationship with your own mom and dad, or did you have to keep things bottled up because you felt your parents just wouldn’t understand? Don’t you want things to be different for your child if your parents were aloof?

So, next time your teen laments over a failed test, a less than perfect first kiss, or even problem split ends, remind yourself that those seemingly trivial issues are major concerns to him or her. Build your relationship by acknowledging this important fact.

  1. Michele says:

    Great advice! As a mom to teens, I understand your sentiments. The one thing that I have found to be helpful is to let my kids know that while I may not have time at that exact moment to discuss their issue, I will make time later. Then, I do just that. Whether it’s a talk in the teen’s room at bedtime or a chat for the two of us while we make dinner, I make sure to take the time and discuss the issue at hand. I find that letting them know that I will listen makes them more open to speaking with me.

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