Why won’t my kids listen? Why does he shout instead of talk? I can see something’s wrong, why won’t she talk to me about her feelings?
These questions are usually raised because the parent doesn’t like how the child is responding to them. Raising little humans is a heck of a job, and it is inevitable that sometimes there is disconnect between the parent’s wants and needs and the child’s wants and needs. A common ground is needed. For children to be understanding of a parent’s wants and needs, they need to feel that their parent is also interested in their wants and needs.
Active listening can greatly improve the communication and cooperation between you and your child. It results in connection and trust, which leads to the flow of communication opening up and moving towards harmony. With better trust and connection, children become more confidence to share their feelings.
Busy parents are great multi-taskers. Listening to kids whilst doing other tasks is an art that many have fine-tuned! And while we may very well be hearing, are we really listening and responding to our child’s needs in these situations?
To practice active listening:
- Give your child your full attention.
- Make eye contact and stop what you are doing
- Get down on your child’s level, literally.
- Keep your body language open. Use physical reassurance as well if that’s what your child likes.
- Make no assumptions and listen to the full story. Give reassuring comments such as ‘I see,” and “oh dear” but try not to interrupt and jump in with assumptions about how they are feeling or should be feeling.
- Reflect and summarise what your child is saying and what they may be feeling to make sure you understand, and they know they have been heard.
- Demonstrate concern and empathy – while it may seem a trivial topic or concern to us as an adult, put yourself in their shoes. Focus on what they are focused on.
- Don’t jump straight to fixing the problem. Allow time first to just feel with them, sympathise and let them know that their feelings are valid. Then ask, is there something I can do to help you? Sometimes kids, don’t want a solution, just to talk about things. Pay attention to their response to your suggestions and adjust appropriately.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator.