Children just need a few minutes of your time. Are you the type of parent who jumps in and tries to fix things for your child? How often do you hear “you’re not listening to me!?” Children, (and adults, I suspect!) respond in a much more positive way if you sit and listen to them with your full attention.
The “full attention” part is difficult with both parents usually working these days. 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, and find out how they are doing at school, what’s happening with their friends etc. They need that full attention listening time with you.
Let’s talk about listening. There is listening…then there is listening with empathy. Acknowledging a child’s feelings will make them feel understood. It doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with what they’re doing or saying, it’s just a different perspective. You’re taking a walk in their shoes.
When you are listening with empathy to your child, it’s helpful to build rapport. Rapport is about establishing an environment of trust and understanding. You do this in a number of ways, but it means assuming a similar state of mind. You can physically mirror their posture, facial expressions and tone of voice. Or you can match their key words. eg. 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.
If you don’t have much idea about what listening with empathy involves, the example conversations below might help:
- Child: I am so angry at Simon for breaking my new ipod. I don’t even know why he had it in the first place!
Parent: Yes, I understand. And I can see you are very angry… but… hitting is not the answer. How about you come with me and I’ll
help you tell Simon how you’re feeling. Maybe you can talk to him about why he had your Ipod in the first place?
- Child: I had the WORST day at school today! Absolutely the WORST!
Parent: WOW, honey, that sounds like a tough day. You want to sit down and talk to me about it?
Child: Well, Susan wouldn’t play with me today and she was really mean to me.
Parent: That’s never a nice feeling when that happens. I can see you’re really upset about this. I don’t like it when I have problems
with my friends either.
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 find, they will recover from their emotions faster, because 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, or want to talk about their emotions. It could be life changing for yourself and your family, if you give them a few minutes of your time. . It may only take 5-10 minutes to be with them, but, it’s pure gold to your child.