The Importance of Listening: 3 Ways Parents Can Better Listen to Teens
4 mins read

The Importance of Listening: 3 Ways Parents Can Better Listen to Teens

As a mother of two I have often experienced the many joys and difficulties of raising teens. 

When my kids were in high school, it felt like I would have to tell them things over and over. But I never stopped to ask myself — was I listening to my teens?

Teens need to be heard, too. If parents don’t actively listen to their kids, they may unintentionally stifle their voices.

The adolescent years, ages 10-17, are a period of immense transformation and growth. Research suggests that this may be the most challenging time in an individual’s life.

If youth feel their opinions go unnoticed during this already difficult time, it can lead to frustration and anger. As teens cope with changes in their bodies, social pressures, and the aftermath of a pandemic, their need to be heard is paramount. 

In my work as a family life coach, I have seen the negative effects of ignoring teens’ voices firsthand. I recommend three ways parents can better listen to their teens:


  1. Creating a Space for Teen Expression

Teens need to feel they have a safe space to express themselves in. If parents don’t provide this, they are missing the first step needed to listen to their teens. 

A safe space means the teens can share without interruptions, judgment, or distractions. Parents should communicate that they are there to understand their teens’ thoughts and feelings and not criticize them. It’s essential for parents to understand how teens are grappling with independence at their age — they are in an in-between stage of not quite being an adult but not being a child. 

A safe space also means being mindful of when you have the conversation. Listen to your teens at a time that works for them and makes them most comfortable. 

If parents don’t create safe spaces, teens will engage less and less with them. They will start to instead turn solely to peers for support and advice. 

Parents, listening is vital: it is the key to fostering deeper connections.  


  1. Give Grace and Acknowledge Feelings

When listening to your teens, give them grace. 

Teens all make mistakes — after all parents, didn’t you make many as a teen? Remind your teens that you love them no matter what.

 Be sure to share with them the importance of self-compassion. Teaching teens to quiet their inner critic and practice graces towards themselves, particularly in challenging moments, contributes to their mental well-being.

Parents also should acknowledge the feelings teens express. 

Parents can help their teens process emotions by helping them label them and teaching them self-awareness. Self-awareness enables individuals to be attuned to their emotions and better understand them.

Teens will feel heard when parents actively help them to recognize tough emotions. 


  1. Be Sure to Guide, Not dictate 

When engaging in conversations with your teens, the way you respond can significantly impact the dynamics of your communication. 

Rather than resorting to the often-defensive responses like “why,” parents should guide the conversation with thoughtful questions that gently course-correct and redirect. 


Here are several coaching questions to foster effective communication with your teen:

  • Question of Reflection: Can you share with me what you were thinking at that moment?

This question encourages your teens to reflect on their thoughts and helps you gain insight into their perspective without sounding accusatory.


  • Question of Future Planning: How can we work together to prevent a similar situation from happening again?

By framing the question in a collaborative manner, you engage your teen in problem-solving and planning for the future, emphasizing shared responsibility.


  • Question of Emotional Expression: What emotions were you experiencing during that time, and how can I support you better in handling them?

This question acknowledges the emotional aspect of the situation, encouraging an open discussion about feelings and providing an opportunity for mutual understanding.


So, the next time you talk with your teen, remember the goal is to guide your teen through a conversation rather than dictate answers. Approach them with curiosity and a genuine desire to understand to better create a space for open communication and collaboration. 

By challenging teens to speak up and share their opinions, parents can empower them and help them shine. 

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