Listen Up!

It's important to listen to teens and sometimes adults can forget that. We get wrapped up in the seemingly negative aspects of adolescence and also consumed with our own busy lives that we don't pay attention. It's important that we work everyday to undo these habits. Whether or not you have direct contact with a teen, you DO need to listen to them. We feel it's necessary to change the way we think about and stigmatize teens. In a previous GirlTip, we talk about reframing adolescence. Reframing adolescence gives us a fresh look and a new perspective for understanding the crucial years of development that happens anywhere around 11 years of age all the way up to 25!

Alida Nugent, author of "Don't Worry, It Gets Worse," writes about the importance of listening to teens. Her opening paragraph accurately sets the stage for what it's like to have to wait until you're older until you are actually heard. 

When I was 16, people told me, ‘You’ll get it when you’re older.’ When I was 16, people told me, ‘Just wait until you get into the real world.’ When I was 16, people told me, ‘You’re just 15,’ and I would say, ‘Hey, I just turned 16,’ and then they dismissed me, because they weren’t listening.

When I was 16, unsurprisingly, I didn’t think I mattered much. When I was 16, I didn’t think anybody would listen to me until I was older. When I was 16, I had so many things to say, and I didn’t get to really say any of them.
— Alida Nugent

Why do we send the message to teens that their voice is only important when they are older? Isn't that counter-intuitive? As a society, we tell teens to speak up and make good choices. We tell girls that their bodies should be respected and they should respect their bodies as well. All along we might be indirectly telling them that they aren't important enough to listen to. How might teens interpret this? 

As adults we have the power to change this. It isn't all about changing the world. It can be about changing one girl's life - one person's life. Teenagers have influence. Just check some of these teens out and you'll see so for yourself! If you want to make a point to listen more to teens, start with these simple steps:

1. Give your teen your FULL attention. Teens can tell when you aren't really there. Put down your phone, free yourself from distractions, and listen.

2. Reflect her emotions; Don't mock them. Yes, sometimes the day to day stuff can be difficult to listen to. Pay attention to the feelings rather than the content of the information.

3. Restate what you heard in your own words. This helps your teen feel heard and also helps to clear up any miscommunication.