Tips to Really Listen to Your Child
Parents strive to communicate openly and build strong rapports with their children. The listening, honesty, and respect that parents expect from their children should be reciprocal and mutual. Just as parents may become easily frustrated when a child does not listen or respond in the way they would like, children often feel the same way with regard to their parents. When children do not listen to a parent, it could be due to the child believing its wants and needs are not being taken into consideration by a parent
Although this could make a child feel uncared for or not connected to a parent, parents must be respectful towards their children to have a healthy relationship.
It can be challenging for children to confide in or discuss certain topics or issues they experience with a parent. However, if children feel that their parents listen to them at a young age, then there is a greater chance the children will turn to a parent for help, guidance, and reassurance as the child gets older. By creating a nurturing and nonjudgmental environment in which parents respect and listen to their child, the child will then likely feel safe in engaging in an open dialogue and improving their listening and communication skills when their parents are talking to them.
Parents should lead by example and act as role models. Although children, adolescents, teenagers, and young adults respond differently to their parents’ opinions on particular situations, here are a few ways parents can really listen and try to understand what their child is trying to tell them:
- Actively Listen and Use Reflection Statements: Active listening shows that parents are approachable, interested and/or curious to hear what their child says. Parents should not downplay or brush their child’s words off as simply being dramatic. Instead, parents should stop what they are doing and pay attention to their child. They should not interrupt their child and let him or her finish speaking. Reflection statements, which consist of reciting back what a child says, helps assure children that their parents are listening and paying attention.
- Observe Signs that Do Not Involve Talking: Parents can still “listen” even if their children are not verbally speaking. Children may be trying to tell their parent something through the child’s changes in mood, attitude, or behaviors. Parents should watch for nonverbal forms of communication such as their children eating more or less than usual. A child who also frequently feels sick or does not go to places or events they typically enjoy is another non-verbal sign to watch for. Children also may withdraw and become more quiet. However, children may also act more hyper than usual, so this may indicate something is going on as well.
- Use Body language and Facial Expressions: Utilizing body language and facial expressions can go a long way to assure children that a parent is listening to them. The correct body language can make parents seem more interested, approachable, and attentive. Parents can improve their body language by giving their children attention with eye contact, speaking with them at their level, facing them as they talk, and giving occasional nods. Making similar facial expressions to reflect the child’s own mood and facial expressions helps a child feel better understood and makes the parent appear more empathetic.
- Give Your Child Space and Let Them Come to You: It is important for parents not to take control of a situation or solve a problem their child experiences right away. There are many times when children or young adults do not want help or advice and would rather their parents simply listen. If parents demand that their child talks to them or fails to give the child space, children may be resistant to confiding in them in the future. If children are looking for advice and for their parents to listen, parents should ask the child if the parent can offer their opinion or ask how they can be helpful. This allows the child to make a decision and assures the child that their parent is listening to them.
The listening skills that children and parents provide each other from an early age can affect their relationship through adulthood. It can negatively affect a relationship if parents make children feel shameful, judged, or ignored. Parents should not tell their children that they handled a situation wrong or how they would have approached it differently at their age. A child may just want to be listened to and children need to feel like their parent can relate to them. Parents can give children support by actively listening, picking up on changes in behavior, and using appropriate body language. If children feel that their parents really listen to them, this will help families develop a safe and open environment for all kinds any conversations.