6 Steps to Create a Safe Space for Your Teen to Talk
#1. Recognise that your role with your teen needs to shift.
At this stage of their lives, they don’t want you to be the lifeboat (well – hardly ever!) Rather, view yourself as a lighthouse, that helps them to see where dangers may lie, and where they can find safety.
#2. Choose a mindset of trust.
Focus on building a relationship of trust and mutual respect – recognising that you, as the parent, need to take the lead on that. Trust builds trust. Show you’re trustworthy!
#3. Make listening a priority.
When your preteen or teen chooses to talk about what’s going on in their lives, stop whatever you’re doing (if you possibly can!) and make listening your priority.
When you give them your full attention, even if it’s 2am, they will be more likely to share with you again.
#4. Listen with empathy and ‘park’ your own strong emotions.
When you focus on ‘How is this for my child?’ you learn to listen without judging or trying to impose your solutions.
Our anger and anxiety, and sometimes even our enthusiasm, can get in the way of listening well. Consciously keep yourself focused on what is being shared. If your mind chases off on its own story, call it back to the present moment and to the task of focusing on what you are hearing.
#5. ‘Listen’ to their body language and the tone of their voice, as well as their words.
You can be so focused on what your teen is saying, that you don’t notice how they are saying it. Listen to shifts in energy, the tone and strength of their voice, gestures, the look in their eye, the pauses – all clues to what lies below the surface.
#6 Avoid ‘fix it’ mode.
It’s easy to jump in with advice-giving. But you are not always going to be there to guide them. They need to develop their own inner compass. When you listen well, you give your teen the inner space to untangle muddled thoughts and to find their own solutions – solutions that work for them to navigate some of the tricky situations that a teen has to handle.