Why try Active Listening with your Teen?

What is Active Listening & why should I use it?

Have you ever been told “You don’t get it!” Sometimes it might be a tense situation you’re in and emotions are overwhelming. Other times your teen might have the feeling that they told you something and were misunderstood. Knowing how to apply Active Listening will improve your relationship with your teen and they’ll be more likely to open up to you. 


Active Listening should take an essential role in our communication repertoire. It’s conversation 101. But it can and should be used in any conversation. You might start to think your child is a completely different person after you change YOUR behavior towards them. It’s so powerful. 


When we show that we’re really listening, it’s much more rewarding for the person talking to us, and we’ll get more out of it too. In a nutshell, this is called Active Listening, and it can help avoid misunderstanding and reduce the potential for conflict. Who doesn’t like that!


Here are some easy ways to make your communication with your teen more effective and make them feel more valued.


  1. Face your teen and have eye contact

Depending on where you usually get to talk to your teen. Maybe you sit together at dinner, or after school, maybe they’re just yelling out of the room behind closed doors. Either way, make sure you get some actual face time with your child. 


Eye contact is an important part of face-to-face conversation. You might have been in a situation yourself where you noticed someone was giving you an intense look. It’s because too much eye contact can be intimidating. So adapt this to the situation you’re in. Try breaking eye contact every five seconds or so. You can switch between their right eye and left eye, then switch looking at their mouth. Be aware, when you look down, you might appear as if you want to close the conversation. So instead, if you look away, choose to look up or to the side. 


Is your posture open?

You might notice you want to move backwards or cross your arms when someone tells you something you don’t necessarily like. So with your teen consciously try to lean slightly forward or sideways whilst sitting. You can tilt your head, smile and nod to show that you’re listening. Avoid crossed arms and crossed legs because that can make you look defensive. 


  1. What are your teen’s “non-verbal” cues?

Pay attention to what your teen is saying with their body language when you talk to them. Facial expressions give away a lot more than words do. Maybe you’ve asked your teen if they were ok, and they answered with ‘yes’ but at the same time they were tilting or shaking their head (meaning ‘not really’). This is the time to ask the right questions (e.g. ‘What would you say could be better right now?’)  Also their tone of voice and gestures can tell you just as much as what they say in words. So be attentive.


  1. No interruptions

Being interrupted is frustrating for your child – it gives the impression that you think you’re more important, or that you don’t have time for what they have to say. You should make them want to open up to you. If you are naturally a quicker thinker or speaker, force yourself to slow down so that they can express themselves. Remember, a pause or a few seconds of silence doesn’t mean that you have to jump in. Letting your child speak will make it easier for you to understand their message, too. If you feel the conversation is getting sidetracked, steer it back by saying, “So, you were telling me about…”


  1. Listen without judging, opinions or solutions

If you hear something you don’t like, you might say something against it. That’s totally normal. Just be aware that this might change what your teen is going to say next. 


If you start reacting emotionally to what your teen is telling you, then it can get in the way of listening to what is said next. Try to focus on listening. Equally, don’t assume that you know what your teen is going to say next. 


With Active Listening it’s important to not impose your opinions or solutions even if it’s not always easy. Listening can be much more rewarding than telling someone what they should do. So when your teen has a problem, this is a time when they probably want to tell you how they’re feeling, and get things off their chest, rather than get lots of advice about what they should be doing. Unless they’re asking for your advice of course. 


This is often an issue in mixed gender conversations (like if you’re co-parenting) because males are conditioned to offer solutions and they tell a story with a focus on how they solved an issue. On the other hand, females often just want to have someone to listen to them. Females generally don’t like to come across as lecture-y or offer solutions when they talk to their girlfriend. In addition, when they tell you a personal story, they often make it about the struggle and not about the solution. This is just to understand a situation better in case you are parenting with your spouse and wonder how they communicate in different ways. 


So my advice is: In a conversation, if you really must share your brilliant solution, ask first if they want to hear it, “Would you like to hear my suggestions?”


  1. Don’t start planning what to say next

You can’t listen and prepare at the same time. Instead, show that you’re listening (hence the name ‘Active Listening’). You can nod your head, smile and make small noises like “yes” and “uh huh”. That shows that you’re listening and encourages your child to continue. Don’t look at your watch or play with your hair or fingernails. Definitely don’t look at your phone!

I know it can be hard to keep your body calm, especially in serious conversations, but try to consciously be aware of it.


  1. Ask questions

Asking relevant questions can show that you’ve been listening and helps clarify what your teen told you.


How do you do it?

If you’re not sure if you’ve understood correctly, wait until they pause and then say something like “Did you mean that…”or “I’m not sure if I understood what you were saying about…” In Active Listening you should also use open questions where you can, like “How did that make you feel?” and “What did you do next?”


  1. Paraphrase and summarize

Has your child told you, “You don’t get it!?” To avoid that, start repeating what has been said. It really shows you’ve been listening, and allows your teen to correct you if you haven’t understood. This may seem awkward at first, but really shows you’ve been paying attention and that’s what your teen wants. They want attention.


If you’re not sure how to do this, try starting a sentence with: “Sounds like you are saying…” It can be as easy as literally repeating what they said and put it in a question. Their answer should always be ‘yes’. The more they say ‘yes’, the more you will establish a positive connection during a conversation. 


All in all, what Active Listening is helping us with, is having the people around us open up to us. Our teens feel heard if we know how to lend them a supportive ear. 


Even if at first it might appear like they don’t want to talk to you, what they really want is attention. Active Listening will help you get to the bottom of things if you sense that there is something there that they don’t want to tell you about. 


In addition, you will improve your mutual relationship and you’ll be the person they come to first if they need to get something off their chest. 


Check out my video on how to use active listening with your teen. For my international folks, it‘s got German, English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles!

Do you think your teen is suffering from low self-esteem or anxiety? 

You as the mom can make a huge difference in your child’s life by using suitable life coaching techniques for teens.


If you’re unsure if coaching is the right thing for you, I recommend the DIY Coaching Starter Kit for Moms of Teens! It’s a free one-hour-course that will give you the opportunity to try basic coaching techniques by yourself. 


Sign up here ➡️ http://learnallover.com/free-masterclass


Hope that helped! 😊 These and other academic study tricks you will find in my easy-to-access online courses for schools and students!  

Alexandra Allover

FOLLOW me on 

🟣 Instagram

🔵 Facebook

🔴 Youtube

✍️ Read more BLOG posts!



More support for students

If you are looking for more academic support, I can offer you access to the academic coaching course for students and teachers. Check out this offer for schools if you want to find out how to apply proven learning strategies, techniques to boost motivation and valuable test preparation skills.


Support for parents: Teens’ mental health 

If you are looking for support regarding your child‘s mental health and want to improve your relationship with them, I want to suggest one of my free resources: the DIY Coaching Kit

By learning more about proven coaching strategies of the parent-child dynamics and the psychology behind it, you‘ll be able to act like a life coach for your own child without them even knowing 😉