Holding Space for Your Young Adult: 10 Tips to Strengthen Your Relationship

communicating with a teenager is hard

Having a meaningful relationship with the young adult in your life is important, but not always easy. One of the ways we can create a healthy connection is by holding space. Holding space for them is about providing a safe and nonjudgmental environment for open communication to foster trust and understanding.
Here are ten practical tips for holding space effectively:

1. Active Listening:

Active listening is the foundation of holding space. It involves making
genuine eye contact, demonstrating verbal cues like saying “tell me more”, and
refraining from interrupting their thoughts. It shows your young adult that
you value their perspective and are fully present to hear them out.

2. Empathetic Responses:

Express empathy by acknowledging their emotions. Respond with statements
like, “Hmm, that is interesting. I can see how you might have felt that way.”
Validating their feelings creates a space where they feel understood and
accepted, enhancing their willingness to share openly with you.

3. Avoid Judgment:

Creating a nonjudgmental atmosphere is essential for holding space. Refrain
from criticizing or passing judgment on their thoughts, opinions, or
experiences. Accepting them unconditionally encourages open dialogue and
strengthens your relationship.

4. Open-Ended Questions:

Encourage your young adult to delve deeper into their thoughts and emotions
by asking open-ended questions. Instead of asking, “Did that make you feel
angry?” try asking, “How did that make you feel?” This approach allows them to
express themselves more fully and fosters meaningful discussions.

5. Reflective Responses:

When engaging in conversation, practice reflective responses. Summarize or
paraphrase their words, demonstrating that you actively listened and
understood their perspective. This technique reassures them their
thoughts and feelings were heard accurately, enhancing their trust in you.

6. Respect Privacy:

Recognize and respect your young adult’s need for privacy. They may not
feel comfortable sharing every detail of their life with you, and that’s
okay. Avoid pressuring them to divulge more than they are comfortable with.
Trust and openness are built over time, so give them the space they need.

7. Calmness and Patience:

During conversations, maintain a calm and patient demeanor. Embrace silence
and allow pauses between responses. Resist the urge to fill the silence
with your own thoughts. By giving them time and space to gather their
thoughts, you show that you value and respect their need to process their
feelings before responding.

8. Express Empathy through Body Language:

Non-verbal cues can convey empathy and support. Offer a light touch on
their elbow when appropriate or, if the relationship allows for it, give a
comforting hug. These gentle gestures can provide reassurance and further
emphasize your commitment to holding space for them.

9. Offer Support Without Fixing:

Sometimes, your young adult may share their concerns without seeking
immediate solutions. Respect their autonomy by asking, “Is this something
you want me to listen to, or are you looking for help finding a solution?”
Only offer advice if they explicitly seek it. Sometimes, being a listening
ear is enough to provide the support they need.

10. Check in Periodically:

After a conversation, check back in with your young adult. Let them
know you are still thinking about them and genuinely care about their well-
being. This simple act reinforces the fact that you were holding space for
them genuinely and demonstrates your ongoing support.

Remember, everyone is unique, try a few of these techniques to see what resonates with your young adult and the situation at hand. By holding space, you convey your unwavering support and love, ensuring your young adult never feels alone on their journey to adulthood.