By: Ida Welbourn
When your child or teenager shares something with you, it is important to show that you are listening and cares about what they have to say.
Here are some tips on how to respond to them in a supportive way:
Encourage them to continue: If they seem doubtful or unsure whether to continue telling, encourage them to continue by saying something that "tells more about it" or "I listen".
Confirm their feelings: Try to get into their situation and try to understand their feelings. Show empathy by saying, for example, "It sounds like you feel very sad/worried/angry."
Ask open questions: This helps them develop their story and express themselves freely. Avoid asking leading questions or giving advice or solutions.
Don't be in a hurry, give time to think: if you don't know what to answer or get worried about their problems, give both yourself and the child/teenager time to think and process their situation. Say something that "I understand that this is difficult for you, I am here for you when you need me" or "I appreciate you tell me, I would like to help you if you want".
Keep track of your own reactions: Avoid reacting emotionally if the child tells you something you reign negatively on. By asking open questions you can get more information about what is happening in the child's life. The information helps you know when you need to encourage and when you need to help
the child to solve his or her problem.
Invite to continued conversation: If you do not have time or need to reflect, then invite them to continued conversation eg "I like to talk about this" or "Let's think and continue talking about it".
Specific to teens:
Show that you are interested, take the time to listen and to ask questions. When you signal that you have time, chances are that the teen continues to tell. If your teen is approaching you, take the chance and try to prioritize the teenager at that time.
Ask open and curious questions that help further but without making demands.
If there is too much focus on talking, it can have the opposite effect. A good way is therefore to ask questions at other times, for example when you do something together, cook, sit in the car or walk.
Finding a balance for teenagers usually does not want you as an adult to be completely silent, but also not to take over and talk too much.
Take it easy and be patient. Just because you as an adult ask questions, you cannot expect answers directly. If the teen rejects you when you try to make contact, you can say that you are there if it wants to talk or hang out later. However, do you notice that the teenager has begun to isolate himself from you and others can
There are signs that the teen is feeling bad and may need more help.
Do not have too high demands on yourself as an adult/parent. Assume that you do as best you can. The important thing is to show care and try to be on hand. If it gets too difficult, maybe there is someone else that the teenager has confidence in who you can ask for help.