Mistrust: A Journey to Nowhere Good by Gregory Bland

girl holding hand up

To build a meaningful connection with our children and teens, we must first answer this question: Does my child/teen see me as an ally or adversary?

Consider the metaphor of a door guarding access to your teen’s heart, which opens up to their innermost thoughts and feelings. As trust builds that door cracks and swings open, allowing you the opportunity to hear a free exchange of thoughts, emotions, dreams, and concerns. Without trust, however, the door remains shut, sealed tightly against any prying fingers.  

So, as a parent, how does your child/teen perceive you? This perception significantly impacts their willingness to crack open that door and share freely with you.  I’ve seen firsthand how parental influence can either foster trust or deepen mistrust, dramatically affecting teens’ openness. Contrary to popular belief, teens do want to share their inner world—they just need to feel safe doing so.

Listen to Sarah, a 15-year-old, describe her experience:

“I remember the first time I felt like I was truly being listened to.  It was shocking for me because I expected to be cut off and given a lecture, but I wasn’t.  They simply listened as I talked.  It was like they truly wanted to know and understand who I really was and what made me tick.  It made me happy and I felt like an adult not a little child.  I found myself wanting to talk to this person more and more, especially when I was facing difficult times.  I now have someone I can count on, knowing they will be there for me no matter what.  That is why I never speak to my parents, because I never get that kind of response, and yet, they still wonder why I won’t open up to them.”

The truth is, if we don’t actively listen to our teens without judgement or ‘trying to fix’ them, they’ll find someone else who will gladly do so.

Many parents mistake problem-solving for listening. If you believe this, you’ll inadvertently but effectively shut the door to your teen’s heart. Teens aren’t always looking for solutions; they want to be heard, and are often seeking support. Effective listening means setting aside your own agenda and prejudices and allowing them to share freely without consequence.

Tips for Effective Listening

Give Them Space: When your teen starts to open up, resist the urge to interrupt. Let them fully express their thoughts and feelings.

Encourage Sharing: Invite them to share more without defending or disagreeing with their perspective.

Clarify: Ensure you understand their message by paraphrasing what you hear. This gives them a chance to correct any misunderstandings.

Delay Your Response: On important or contentious issues, take time to gather your thoughts and emotions before responding. This can help you reengage in a more thoughtful conversation later.

Listening in this way not only provides insight into your teen’s mind but also affirms their value. We all crave to be known and understood. By truly listening, you honor your teen on a deeper level, opening the door to nurture and strengthen their own unique God given gifts and talents.

Until next time,
Listen for a change in heart and attitude.

Your friend and pro-active parent coach
Gregory Bland

Photo Credit: Adobestock 78305638

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