Healthy communication with our children, at any age, can be difficult at times. They feel like we aren’t listening to them and we feel they aren’t listening to us. Active listening and communication skills are critical when it comes to good parenting. Your child’s opinions and views are important not to mention their feelings. As a parent you need to take the time to sit down and actively listen to what your kids have to say and openly and honestly discuss their problem or situation with them.
What is Active Listening?
For starters, what is active listening? Active listening is intent to “listen for meaning.” As a parent you need to listen to your children in order to understand, interpret, and evaluate what is being said. Active listening is a structured manner of listening and responding to others, in this case our kids.
Stop Reacting and Listen
In our busy lives it seems that the natural tendency to communicating with our children is to react rather than respond. We end up passing judgment based on our own feeling and beliefs. However, responding to our children requires us to be receptive to what our child’s feelings and emotions are. We need to allow them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from us. By reacting to what is being said we send a clear message to our children that their opinions and feelings are invalid.
Listen and Respond
When we listen and respond to what our kids are saying by engaging them and asking questions we can learn why they are feeling the way they are. It opens up a dialog that allows them to discuss their feeling further while giving you the opportunity to better understand where they are coming from. Responding opens the door to provide feedback or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own. They will appreciate the fact that you understand their feelings and they will be comfortable sharing their feelings with you.
How to Actively Listen
Here is where the rubber meets the road. When you actively listen to your children it requires your full undivided attention. That means turn off the television, walk away from the computer, put down the magazine, stop what you are doing and give your attention to your child. Make eye contact with them and listen to what they have to say. Watch their body language for additional cues to what they may be feeling. Restate what you heard in your own words so they know you understand what they said then engage them by asking questions, stay calm, be inquisitive, and when they are done offer them encouragement or potential solutions to their problem.
Throughout all stages of life whether you are a child or adult you will have feelings and experience difficult times. By actively listening and participating with your children as they discuss these issues with you it demonstrates that you do care and that you sincerely want to help. You will even be able to share your own stories with your children about similar events that they can learn from. Not only are you practicing good communication skills but you are teaching your children a key skill by actively listening to them.