Written by Ashley Ellis, parentingtodayskids.com
Ashley Ellis is a Dependency Case Manger for The Children’s Home Society and holds a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Child Development. She is a believer that true wisdom does not typically come just from knowledge but by experience. Currently she dedicates a lot of time mentoring teen girls. Ashley feels that her greatest accomplishments are the moments she spends volunteering to encourage, talk and to listen to others.
It has been several years since I was listed in the category of “teenager,” and I am so glad that it is not a time in my life that I must repeat. Yet, I do not know where or whom I would be today if I didn’t rise up to the challenges I faced during that period of my life. When I reflected on the importance of this period in a young person’s life and how it defines their future, I decided to dedicate several hours each week to mentoring teenage girls. I simply LISTEN as they process (I hear a lot about Boys!!!) and share their perception and emotions of the environment around them. We then discuss the different paths that lie in front of them, and I have them explain to me which path they would like to choose, which path is best, and also their reasons for choosing that path verses the other ones. It enlightens them that there are several paths, and it also allows me to truly know the girl I am mentoring. I always share my journey with the girls I mentor; some listen, as they reflect upon the experiences of my past, and others still learn from experiencing the more difficult journey. Either way, we communicate about their every day events because in a teenager’s life something BIG happens every day whether they tell you or not.
Even though most of the hurdles that challenge these girls are the same, each girl perceives it in a way unique to them. No two words of wisdom I offer are typically the same. Yet, you would be amazed how an hour or two a week of just listening to a young girl’s heart and her thoughts affects her whole life. Parents, I encourage you to start listening to your children before reacting. Take time to assimilate the words your child is using to describe her actions and emotions. Don’t just react to the actions because her emotions are a driving force towards the actions she has chosen. I have listed an exercise below that typically can help you with this process. Please, remember that your daughter is on a journey to find herself and who she wants to become. If you want to join her on the journey, I would encourage you to take even twenty minutes a day just to listen. Discuss her options, and encourage her in the choices she makes even if it might not be the wisest (unless it will put her in danger of course). If you begin to have this open form of communication, you will be the first person she comes to when she falls. You will be the one to encourage her to pick herself up, and you can explore her other pathways together. More beautiful than all of that, you will be creating an enduring relationship with your daughter, and you will know her!
Listening Exercise: After your daughter has said something, take a second to perceive what you think she is trying to say, and ask, “Am I correct when I hear you telling me…?” (Fill in your interpretation of what she was trying to say.) This will then give them the opportunity to say, “That is exactly what I meant,” or “No.” And they will give you more information. By the end of the conversation, you will be on the same page – with the same font and same font size as your daughter.