Research has found that listening attentively helps young people share their challenges

Key points

  • New research shows that when parents practice attentive listening, teenagers are more likely to open up.
  • Experts recommend that you show your intent to listen by maintaining eye contact and avoiding distractions (such as on the phone).
  • By considering the timing of serious conversations, parents can also connect more deeply with their teenagers.

From grades and friendships to heartbreak and collusion, there are many important experiences in the lives of teenagers.Figure out how to make teens honest about what they are going through, giving parents an opportunity to provide guidance and support, and a new study Journal of Experimental Child Psychology Found evidence of an effective technique: listen attentively.

The researchers asked children aged 13 to 16 to watch their parents listen to various video recordings of important things shared by teenagers. It turns out that videos that parents listen to intently, rather than distractingly, make teenagers feel better about opening their hearts.

Here is how research shows how focused listening can help parents build better relationships with teenagers.


In this study, researchers from the University of Reading and the University of Haifa collaborated with approximately 1,000 adolescents living in the UK. The participants included a similar number of boys and girls, as well as three people of different genders. 13-year-old, 14-year-old, 15-year-old and 16-year-old are also roughly evenly distributed.

Participants watched the video, in which parents listened intently or indifferently to teenagers sharing important things, such as admitting to smoking e-cigarettes or feeling alienated by friends. They then responded to a survey asking how they would feel if they were teenagers in a particular situation, and how likely they thought the teenagers in the video would be to share other things with their parents in the future.

Jenny Jannott, PhD

This research provides a starting point for parents who are struggling to raise adolescents with practical, useful, and potentially game-changing advice.

— Dr. Jeannine Jannot

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that videos that parents listened intently made teenagers feel that sharing their personal experiences would bring greater happiness. Attentive listening also makes it more likely that young people will express their future open intentions.

“A survey of the relationship between the extent to which parents listen to young people’s opinions and young people’s willingness to share information publicly with them shows that we recommend that parents build strong connections with young people on the basis of honesty and trust,” said Dr. Jeannine Jannot. A school psychologist, university lecturer in psychology, and the author of “The Collapsed Student: Struggling but Smart, Falling Down, and How to Turn it Around”.

She added: “This research provides a starting point for parents who struggle with the ups and downs of raising adolescents and provide practical, useful, and potentially game-changing advice.”

Why listening attentively is important for young people

Experts say that the results of the latest study are not surprising, but they help to further verify the guidance they often share with their parents on how to open up teenagers.

“The feeling of being heard is a key emotional need for adolescents,” said Gail Gutierrez of LCSW, outpatient services manager of the St. John Children and Family Development Center in Providence, Santa Monica, California. “They are being personalized, separated from their parents, but still need their parents’ attention, support, and love. When parents listen intently, teenagers will feel that their parents are interested in them-they feel or feel seen And hear.”

Research also shows that parents may need to be careful not to indulge in today’s busy and always connected lifestyle to help build a deeper connection with their children.

Gal Gutierrez, LCSW

When parents listen intently, teenagers feel that their parents are interested in them—they feel, or they feel seen and heard.

—Gail Gutierrez, LCSW

“When parents listen to only half of their lives, check their phones, cook, and listen to the news, teenagers feel neglected and insignificant. They will not open up to their parents because they are sending a message’I don’t care, I’m not listening,'” LCSW , Family Therapist for Children and Adolescents, “Reflecting on Your Adolescents: From Control and Conflict to Structure and Training to Cultivate Responsible Young People. ”

Fox pointed out that adolescence is a time when people are particularly sensitive to how they listen to and perceive others, including their parents.

“Teenagers are very self-conscious and sensitive to judgment, so anything they pick up that might make them feel uncertain will cause them to shut down. Teenagers want to be heard, and they will be happy when they feel safe and unjudged Get involved,” she said.

Develop the skills of focused listening skills

Getting their teenagers to share what happened in their lives can be a challenge for parents. But don’t think it’s because your child is not interested in talking to you, Fox said.

“It’s a common mistake for parents to think their teenagers don’t want to communicate with them,” she said. “Teenagers gain a great sense of self-worth from their parents’ listening because they want to show their parents that they are good decision-makers, think carefully, and strive to do the right thing.”

Darby Fox, LCSW

Teenagers get a great sense of self-worth from their parents’ listening because they want to show their parents that they are good decision makers, thoughtful, and strive to do the right thing.

— Darby Fox, LCSW

Instead, you may need to develop focused listening skills to help teenagers open up more easily.

First, consider the time of the conversation.

“When their children went out or just drove from school, the parents made a mistake and they wanted to have a serious conversation,” Fox said. “Timing is critical. Parents can ask their children when is a good time to discuss anything.”

Experts say that when you sit down and talk, pay attention. This means ignoring your phone, staying away from other items on the to-do list, and focusing on them. Maintain gentle eye contact, try not to interrupt, and avoid immediately suggesting solutions or sharing your personal opinions about the problem.

Gutierrez added that avoiding judgment and reaction can also help.

She said: “Parents need to learn and practice self-regulation skills in order to remain calm and open in the face of content that may be triggered by their children.”

Parents can also help their children talk more comfortably by reflecting on their teenage years.

“Before responding, take a moment to reflect on your teenage years. Have you ever felt this way? Is there a time when you want to be heard, and your parents don’t think you are explained but are punished? If parents can behave With sympathy and reflection, the teenager will feel listened. This does not mean that there may be no consequences, but it means that you understand your child unconditionally,” Fox said.

Keep in mind that it may take time for teenagers to open up, and you may need to talk about lighter topics before they are willing to discuss more serious issues.

“Get in the habit of asking kids what they think, or if they see something in the news, if they have heard of crazy parties, or other information that lets them know that you are consistent with their world,” Fox said.

In other words, start slowly, be patient, and continue to practice listening attentively. Over time, your child may eventually believe that opening up to you will help them feel better in the long run.

What this means to you

New research shows that listening attentively can open up teenagers to what is happening in their lives. This can help parents who are often frustrated by their inability to speak to establish a deeper connection with their children and allow them to share important parts of their lives.

Start by asking young people about light-hearted topics, such as what happened in the news, and gradually build up their comfort in talking with you. When you get into a more serious discussion, ask your child when is a good time to chat. Maintain eye contact, avoid judgmental reactions, and show empathy when your child opens up to you to help them feel better.