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When Is the Last Time You Felt Heard? When Did Your Teen Last Feel Heard? 🙉

communication parenting teens May 19, 2022

In one of my classes an interesting topic was brought up. My instructor asked the question: When was the last time you felt heard? My mind thought back to the last time I felt like someone actually heard me. I didn't have to go too far back. My husband had listened to me the week before as I shared some of the tender feelings of my heart. During that moment, I felt heard. 

However, my heart ached a little during class in the moments of silence that followed. My instructor asked us to raise our hands if we could remember the last time we felt heard.

Only a couple hands went up. Most people looked down at the ground. 

In a society where we have more ways to express ourselves than ever before why is it that so many people feel lost in the shadows, like their voice or opinions don't matter.

I can usually spot a teenager who isn't being heard. They shut down, believing that it doesn't matter what they say anyway. They feel isolated, angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and lost. Their self-confidence is low. They say what they think is expected of them, not what they really think or feel. 

I can almost always spot a parent who isn't being heard. Often there is yelling. Many times, emotional and empty threats are shouted. The tension is thick and I can see the kids push back. In an attempt to be heard, neither the parent or the child is truly listening to each other.

As an adult, when we don't feel heard, our brain signals that we need to speak louder or repeat what we're saying in a different way. 

Teens can do the same thing - arguing, shouting, or being defiant. But many times they do the opposite and just don't speak at all. The anger brews inside them because they want to feel heard as much as any other human.

Last night, one of my kids came and sat on the couch in my office. They sat quietly but I could sense there was something they wanted to say. Slightly tense, I turned to ask them if they needed to talk so I could get back to my work. They must have sensed my slight frustration because they uttered "never mind". I inwardly sighed, took a deep breath, moved closer to them, said their name, and promised that I wanted to hear what they were saying. Although my work felt important in the moment, what my kid wanted to say was even more important. The work would be there when I was done.

This type of focused attention used to be hard for me to give. I usually multi-tasked while my kids would tell me things. Dishes, text messages, laundry, cooking - they were all ways to stay busy while my kids talked. Then I had a couple teens who would call me out on it in frustration. "You're not really listening to me. I'll wait until you can really hear what I'm saying. Can you put down your phone so it feels like you're listening?" OUCH!

I've realized that to have a better connection with my kids, I need to stop whatever I'm doing, face them, look at them while communicating, and use active listening skills so that they feel heard.

Yes, it is more work and takes more focus, but I have a better open relationship with my kids now than I did back then.

It's not a perfect system and I still sometimes find it hard to tear myself away from what I'm doing. But it's important to me to be a person my kids can talk to when they need someone.

Parents, if you're kids aren't listening to you, then here are a few things to consider.

  • How are your listening skills? Do you get caught up in the same trap I've been guilty of? Do you multi-task or do other things while they speak?
  • Do you listen with curiosity or do you listen to answer?
  • When they speak, do you acknowledge what they are saying and thank them for sharing it?
  • Do you ask your kids questions to make sure you understand them?
  • Are you a fixer? Do you try to fix their problems?
  • What is your body language telling your kids? Is it open or closed? Are your shoulders facing their direction? Do you look in their eyes?

Most teenagers tell me their parents don't listen to them. I know that as parents, we are busy. The time you spend actively listening to your teen, without trying to fix their problem, will be time invested that you will never ever regret.

If you wonder if your teen feels heard, this is a great time to ask them! Don't forget to ask with curiosity, ask deeper questions, thank them for sharing, and be ready to take away some good tips from them.

Feeling and being heard is a rare gift. Your teens will thank you! 

If you could use some help with these communication skills, don't hesitate to reach out! I'd love to schedule a discovery call with you to talk about ways to improve communication with your teen!

 

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