Communicating with our children can be a difficult task at times…unless we nag, repeat ourselves a 100 (1000?) times, or yell…we often feel like they’re not listening to us and they feel like we’re not listening to them. Good listening and communications skills are essential to successful parenting. Your child’s feelings, views and opinions have worth, you need to be sure you take the time to sit down, listen openly and discuss their feelings honestly and be sure to do all three of these often!
My daughter once said, “Mom, I’m so glad that I can tell you anything, and that I can talk to you, isn’t that anything a girl could ever want?” It warmed my heart and made me want more than anything to keep that relationship strong by being open, honest, and available.
It’s often a natural tendency to react rather than to respond in most situations or conversations. We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences. However, responding means being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion or judgement from us. By reacting, we send our child the message that their feelings and opinions don’t matter. But by responding and asking questions about why they feel that way, it opens a dialog allowing them to discuss their feelings further, and more importantly allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from. Responding also gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that they may not have come up with on their own. Your child will also appreciate the fact that maybe you do indeed understand how they feel, and more importantly they will want to come talk to you about things in the future!
It’s crucial in these situations to give your child your full and undivided attention. Put down your phone or whatever you are reading, stop doing dishes, or turn off the television so you can hear the full situation and make eye contact with your child. Keep calm, be inquisitive, and afterwards offer potential ideas or solutions to the problem.
Don’t try to keep or discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated. It’s OK to have feelings, and opinions about something that makes you upset, mad or sad. Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way, and then offer potential solutions to help them find a solution.
Just as we do, our children have feelings and experience difficult situations. By actively listening and participating with our child as they talk about it, we demonstrate to them that we do care, we want to help and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from. Remember, respond – don’t react.
As my own daughter once told me, “all I really want is for someone to talk to, and someone to listen…” so be that person to listen, so that they will keep coming back to you long into the future!