Lending an Ear: How to Make Your Teen Feel Comfortable Opening Up to You

Relationship dynamics between parent and child can sometimes feel like navigating through a maze. With many twists, turns, and dead ends, communication often feels painful and confusing. As parents, we want our children to feel comfortable confiding in us, yet sometimes it seems they would rather hole up in their bedrooms than spend quality time with us.

So, how do we build this connection and create an environment where our teens feel safe and supported in opening up to us? While it may seem straightforward, the answer can often be found through listening.

The Power of Listening

Listening is not just about hearing words; it’s about understanding emotions, concerns, and underlying messages behind them. In a world filled with distractions, giving our teens undivided attention can help them feel important. Our attention tells them that they matter and that their thoughts and feelings are valid.

When we truly to listen to others, we create a safe space for self-expression without fear of judgement or criticism. Listening is a useful skill, especially while navigating the challenging teenage years and working with our children as they try to find a place in this world.

Tips to Build Open Communication

Be Present

Put away any and all distractions, such as smartphones and television, and make direct eye contact with your teen while they are speaking to you. Show them through actions that they have your full attention and value what they have to say.

Practice Empathy

Try to see things from your teen’s perspective. Empathize with their struggles and validate their emotions, even if you may not agree with their point of view.

Avoid Judgement

Keep an open mind and refrain from jumping to conclusions or criticizing their choices. Remember, your teen is more likely to confide in you if they feel accepted and understood.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Avoid the typical “yes or no” response questions and utilize more open-ended questions that encourage them to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings. For example, instead of asking “Did you have a good day at school?” try asking “What was the best part of your school day?”

Respect Their Privacy

While it is important to be involved in your teen’s life, respect their boundaries and give them space when they need it. Avoid prying or interrogating them about every detail of their life. This can backfire and actually push them away, making it less likely that they will want to open up to you.

Be Patient

Building trust and fostering open communication takes time. Be patient with your teen and let them know that no matter what, you will always be there for them.

Creating Opportunities for Connection

Throughout the day, it is important to find time to connect with your teen and utilize the skills previously mentioned. Here are some ways to build this connection:

  • Family Dinners: Make it a priority to sit down for dinner together as much as possible. Use this time to catch up on each other’s day, tell stories, and engage in meaningful conversations.
  • Quality Time: Find activities that you and your teen will enjoy doing together, such as watching a movie, going for a walk outside, or playing a game.
  • Taking Interest: Show genuine interest in your teen’s activities, hobbies, and passions. Try to attend their events and take active interest in what they value.
  • Technology Free Zones: Try to make certain areas of your home (e.g. dinner table or living room) “tech-free zones” where family members can disconnect from technology and interact face-to-face.
  • Open Door Policy: Inform your teen that at any point, your door is always open for them to come and talk.
  • Mental Health Counseling: Family counseling can be a great way to learn how to communicate effectively and actively listen to one another. Reach out and schedule a session today!