BY ANNIE O’BRIEN
Are you the type of parent who jumps in and tries to fix things for your child? How often do you catch yourself saying “You’re not listening to me?”
Evidence suggests that children, (and adults I suspect) respond in a much more positive way if you sit down and listen to them with your full attention.
The “full attention” part is often challenging for many parents today as they juggle so many responsibilitites including work commitments. Most parents are time and energy poor by the end of the day and any opportunity for actual conversation is, at best, around the dinner table at night. It is, however, still important to have that one on one time with your child to touch base, find out how they are doing at school, what’s happening with their friends and build closeness. Children require full attention and listening time with parents, just as much as they need good food and shelter.
When it comes to listening to your child, there is listening, and then there is listening with empathy. Acknowledging a child’s feelings will help them feel understood. You don’t have to agree with what your child is saying or doing, but you are allowing them to share with you their perspective. A lot can be gained by taking the time to walk in your child’s shoes and imagine the world from their eyes. That you take the time to do this can mean the world to a child and increase parent and child bondings exponentially. So when tough times arise in future your child is more likely to come to you, trust in you and confide in you.
When you are listening with empathy to your child, it is helpful to build rapport in order to establish an environment of trust and understanding. You can do this in a number of ways. You can physically mirror their posture, facial expressions and tone of voice. You can also match their key words. For example, if they say something was ‘’disgusting” you might repeat that word back to them. You can even match their breathing. They need to know you are taking their feelings seriously and techniques such as these go a long way in helping your child feel at ease and accepted by you.
Here is an example of how an empathetic conversation may sound:
Kevin: “I am so angry at Simon for breaking my new iPod. I can’t believe he took it without asking! I’m so mad at him!”
Parent: “Yes, I can see you are very angry. I bet you’re frustrated he didn’t ask you for it. I would be really upset too. How about we find Simon and you can tell him how you’re feeling. Then he will know next time not to take anything of yours without asking. He probably feels really bad about breaking it too.”
Kevin: “Thanks for your help Mum.”
Sally: “I had the WORST day at school today! Absolutely the WORST!”
Parent: “WOW honey, that sounds like a tough day. Do you feel like sitting down and talking about it? Maybe I can help.”
Sally: “Well, Susan wouldn’t play with me today and she was really mean to me.”
Parent: “Did that hurt your feelings? I can see you’re really upset about it. What did you do?
Sally: ” I told her I hated her and started crying.”
Parent: “I can understand why you did that. I don’t like it when my friends are mean to me either. When I fight with my friends, I tell them they are hurting my feelings and then they are nicer to me. Maybe Susan didn’t realise she was being so mean. You could tell her that next time if she does that again. What do you think?
By keeping the communication lines open, you are giving your child the opportunity to talk about their feelings and find their own solutions. The added bonus of all this attention is that they will know they are valued and loved. You will soon find that they will recover from their emotions faster, because they release them, feel supported and the need to have them in the first place is no longer there.
Look for opportunities to really listen and empathise with your child any time they’ve had a bad day, want to talk about their emotions, or just because. It could be life changing for yourself and your family. It may only take 5-10 minutes of your time, but the lifelong benefits are priceless to your child, no matter what their age!
Article by Annie O’Brien written especially for elenapaige.com
Creator of the E-motion Cards for kids