Our children are talking. Are we listening?
There are hundreds of books, articles and websites that give parents tips on how to make their children listen to them, but there are far fewer resources that focus on parents listening to their children. Listening to your children is an important skill to build for several reasons. It helps you:
- understand what’s really going on in your child’s day-to-day life and what he or she is thinking or worrying about
- let your child know that he or she can talk to you about any subject or problem without judgment
- show your child that he or she can trust you
- strengthen your relationship with your child
How to be a good listener
Listening sounds like it should be easy, but really giving your children your full attention and letting them talking without you taking over the conversation is pretty challenging. Try these steps to make yourself a better listener.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV, put away your cell phone, turn off the radio. Give your child the quiet and space he or she needs to start talking and take away outside distractions that can sidetrack both of you.
- Use your body language to focus your attention. Make and keep eye contact with your child. If you’re taller than your child, bend or sit so you’re on his or her level physically.
- Mirror back what your child says. If your child is telling you about why she doesn’t want to play with a friend anymore, try rephrasing and repeating her statement back to her. For example, you could say, “It sounds like Annie hurt your feelings and you’re upset.” Restating what your child says shows her that you acknowledge and understand what she’s telling you.
- When there’s a problem, don’t jump in and try to fix things. Give your child time to express himself and try to work out a solution on his own. Rather than telling him what to do, brainstorm possible solutions with him.
- Be available. Let your children know that you will always make time to talk with them. If they start a conversation while you’re in the middle of something and they’re old enough to understand, tell them you need to finish up your task, but then you’re all theirs. Whenever possible, put aside what you’re doing and focus on what your child wants to tell you.
- Acknowledge what your child feels. Rather than saying, “Don’t be mad at your friend,” acknowledge that your child is angry by saying, “I understand.” This helps them understand that they don’t have to censor their emotions and thoughts when they’re talking to you.
You’ll reap many rewards by learning to truly listen to your children. It can bring you closer, help your children feel more confident and open the door for them to bring big and little problems to you so you can help them solve them, make healthy choices and stay safe.
Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan on Facebook and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit RAACE.org today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.