Cares but doesn’t listen

An interesting topic was put before me recently; it was about how we support and equip young people to communicate and deal with challenging adults in their life.
I considered all the differing scenario’s where a young person would have to deal with difficult adults in their life, and I thought about young carers and the part they play in supporting their parent/s and how for some the torment of trying to live their life as a young person while taking on the responsibility of being a carer of an adult can understandably lead to conflict. In addition there is the scenario of parents with addictions, mental health conditions, parents living with their own trauma, struggling parents, abusive parents and the narcissistic or immature parent, I am sure there are many other family scenarios - in particular when you bring culture and religion into the mix - where young people find it difficult to communicate with their parents. When we move outside of the family unit, young people engage with adults in education, health, criminal justice, and employment, as well as in their social and leisure activities: coaches, youth workers, and the list goes on.
The difficult emotions that play out in these scenarios are real, and how young people facing these challenges are affected throughout their lives can become overwhelming and for some it becomes too much. As practitioners and professionals working to support, educate and care for young people we need to be aware of these dynamics and the approaches we apply, realising that the term parent does not automatically bestow or change personalities or behaviours in people. Parent or practitioner, we may still be that person in a young person’s life that cares but doesn’t listen.

We should never underestimate the power of active listening. Sometimes people come to us to talk and often that is all that they want! As a parent or as a practitioner, there can often be the temptation to problem solve, inputting our own views and advice, but in many situations this can be unhelpful. As an adult there is often a presumption that adults know best but often it is the young people who already have the answers. By actively listening to what everyone has to say but to young people in particular, the solutions that we may be tempted to try and provide, may already be there. Listen, encourage the sharing of everyone’s views and often a resolution follows shortly.

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