Our tweens, teens, and adolescents are having some BIG feelings right now. Their world is changing faster than anyone would have ever imagined, and we all know change can be uncomfortable. Leaving our comfort zones is just that … uncomfortable. 

It’s even harder when we don’t get to make a choice about when we leave them. We’re already leaving on the back foot as resentment leads the way. Everyone likes to think they have a choice, that they are in some small way responsible for calling the things that matter in their lives. And especially our young people, our rangatahi, who are waking up to having choice muscles they are now allowed to flex. 

What happens then, when these choices are taken away from them? They have BIG feelings. 

And you, as a parent, have an opportunity. You may, or may not, agree with the choices they are making. That’s not the point. The point is that you have an opportunity to listen. To hear their big feelings and let them know you hear them. 

Listening is not agreeing. Listening is simply that. Listening. And you can let them know you get them by reflecting back on what they are saying. Not parroting back, just summarising it. Use a starter like, “It sounds to me that you’re …. (insert summary)” and then wait for their reply before you add anything else. 

That’s all you have to do. 

Don’t worry if you get it wrong. They’ll tell you! At which point you just have another go. “I hear you saying that … (insert new summary).” 

It’s your place just to listen. It’s not your place to offer advice unless they ask for it. And you don’t need to have any answers. Just a willingness to listen.

They will appreciate your listening. By just listening (and nothing else), you are gifting them the power of being heard unconditionally. Of having another human pay them the respect of listening to what they have to say. And for our young people that is huge. 

They’ve been taught to do this all their lives, how often have they had the gift of this respectful listening returned to them? 

Not that often … unless it’s to regurgitate an answer they know another person wants to hear.  And that doesn’t validate them.

So when you get a hint of a listening opportunity, take it. Embrace it and see where it will take you.