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How to Actively Listen to Your Teenager

Updated: Feb 17

Active listening is a powerful tool that can help parents build trust and

connection with their anxious teens. By developing this skill, parents can create a safe

emotional space for their teens to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. By actively listening to your teenager, you can not only strengthen your parent-teen bond but also help your teen to feel respected, valued, and understood, building their self-esteem.

“Active listening helps us see beyond what is being presented on the surface, things we could otherwise miss.”


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Why is Active Listening so Important?

As parents of anxious teens, we often find ourselves in a stalemate, unable to break through

the barriers and help our teens navigate their anxiety. We may feel frustrated and helpless,

wondering why our efforts to communicate and support them seem to fall flat.

The truth is, the root of the problem lies in the lack of emotional safety and trust our teens feel. They know that our primary motive is to encourage them to do something they do not want to do, which triggers their stress response and sends them into a survival response.

Mum attentively listening to teenage daughter as they work together

Understanding the Teen’s Perspective

When our teens go into survival mode, their instincts take charge, leading to behaviors

such as withdrawal, anger, silence, or even physical symptoms like feeling sick. These

instincts are natural and necessary for survival, but they also indicate that our teens do not

feel emotionally safe. To help them, we need to create an environment where they feel

heard, understood, and valued.

The Power of Active Listening

Active listening is a fundamental strategy that can help parents build trust and connection

with their anxious teens. It involves listening to understand, rather than

to reply, fix, or impose our own agenda.

When we actively listen, we create a safe emotional space for our teens to express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism.


How Do I Know if it's Anxiety.....and WHAT THE HECK DO I DO?!


How to Actively Listen to Your Teenager

  • Eliminate distractions and give them your full attention.

  • Make physical gestures or indicators to show that you are fully engaged, such as nodding or making small noises to acknowledge their words.

  • Try not to interrupt and refrain from any judgment or assumptions.

  • Pay attention to their body language, tone of voice, and any hesitations, as these

  • Clarify & gently question if there is anything you do not understand.

Mum attentively listening to her teenage son as they sit together on the sofa

The Benefits of Active Listening

Active listening has numerous benefits for both parents and teens.

  • Firstly, it strengthens the parent-teen bond, as it shows our teens that we value their thoughts and feelings.

  • It also encourages them to practice active listening themselves, creating a positive cycle of communication and understanding.

  • Active listening helps our teens feel respected, worthy, and appreciated, which boosts their self-esteem and overall well-being.

  • Additionally, active listening allows us to gain a deeper understanding of our teens’ experiences and emotions, enabling us to provide more effective support and guidance.

The Challenges of Active Listening

Practicing active listening can be challenging, especially when our teens push our buttons

or express their emotions in a way that triggers our own emotional reactions. In these

moments, it is crucial to remain calm and focused on understanding rather than defending


It takes practice and patience to master active listening, but the rewards are well

worth the effort.

Moving Towards Real Communication and Connection

By actively listening to our anxious teens, we create a foundation for real communication

and connection. In the next article, we will explore how to move beyond grunts and shrugs

to facilitate meaningful conversations and encourage our teens to open up. By combining

active listening with effective communication techniques, we can help our teens feel heard,

understood, and supported on their journey to managing their anxiety.

In conclusion, active listening is a powerful tool that can help parents build trust and

connection with their anxious teens. By creating a safe emotional space and listening with

the intention to understand, we can strengthen the parent-teen bond, boost our teens’ self-

esteem, and gain a deeper understanding of their experiences.

Active listening takes practice and patience, but it is a crucial step towards effective communication and support for our anxious teens.


What next?

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**Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment

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