« All News

Strengthening Connection with Teenagers

Image of Strengthening Connection with Teenagers

How to connect with your angsty adolescent and have them to truly open up to you? How do I connect with my teens? I believe this is a question that many parents struggle with, especially during this circuit breaker period. The stage of adolescence is inherently stressful as teens struggle with multi-faceted pressures in their lives. Parent-adolescent relations are more likely to be conflictual during this period. However, you can develop positive connections with your teens by remaining emotionally supportive, encouraging, and receptive.

One effective way to do is by active listening. It is important to actively listen to your children while they are in their teenage years. This is when they begin to form their identity and take ownership of their values and beliefs. Active listening requires parents to read the needs of their teens and respond to the context.

Here’s a typical parent-adolescent conversation. When parents ask, “What did you do in school today?”, a teenager often says, “Nothing.” What follows is an exchange of questions and monosyllabic answers. Sometimes, teens say “nothing” but really do have something to say.

As parents, you have to show them that you are really interested to convince them to open up. Honouring their right to respond the way they want shows respect for their feelings as well as interest in them. Teens who sense that their parents are interested in hearing what they have to say, as opposed to interrogating or prying, will open up when they are ready.

Here are ways to show active listening:

  • Asking good questions: Teenagers may feel accused by the kind of questions asked. Ask questions that allow your teen to feel comfortable answering truthfully and openly.

The intent behind asking questions is to understand rather than advise, criticise or pry. Active listening questions intend to:

  1. Clarify meanings: “What did you mean when you said I had been unfair to you?”

  2. Learn about their thoughts, feelings and wants: “Tell me more about your ideas for the project.”

  3. Encourage elaboration: “How did that make you feel?”

  4. Encourage discovery: “What are your options?”

  5. Gather more facts and details.

  • Paraphrasing – Restate what you heard to ensure that you have understood what your teens have said.

  • Empathizing – Take time to see things through their eyes. Empathizing does not mean you need to agree with them. It does not mean you need to give in or allow them to set their own rules. Empathizing means you do not dismiss your teens. Acceptance is the heart and soul of active listening. By accepting their thoughts, ideas and feelings, there is a higher chance that your teens would want to talk to you about their problems.

Active listening is an important skill in parenting. It is a sophisticated skill that takes years to master. Actively listening to your children is the best way to create a caring relationship in which they would see you as a base they can always return for support. A secure parent-adolescent relationship helps your children to become resilient, responsible and caring teenagers who are open to your love and guidance.

Below are further suggestions in guiding you to develop positive connections with your teens.

Suggestions on sentence starters for active listening:

Suggestions to improve communication:

Suggestions on conversation starters:

Written by Chai Po Yen, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services


Animated Person Thinking Www Pixshark Com Images Thinking – Person Thinking Cartoon

Transparent Clipart [image]. (n.d.). https://www.pinclipart.com/pindetail/hRhRxT_animated-person-thinking-www-pixshark-com-images-thinking/

Parenting: Evidence-based guidelines for communicating with your teen [Brochure].

Singapore: National University Hospital.

The skill of active listening. (n.d.). https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/healthy-communication/the-skill-of-listening/