When is Listening Really Hearing Your Child or Teen?
When busy parents listen to their kids, how often are they really thinking of something else? There’s always a list of things to do and your mind is on what’s next in line. So, your son or daughter goes on about something in their day and then asks you a question. You ask to have the question repeated tipping off your child that you weren’t all there in their moment. They catch on that you weren’t really with them and say, “forget it.” You know you’ve blown it so how do you stay on track with your child or teen? The key is focusing on that very moment and letting everything else in your mind come second. Sound sensible? Sure. But it isn’t always so easy.
Tips for Staying in the Moment with Your Child or Teen
1. When your child seeks your attention, stop what you’re doing because this may be the very moment when your kid needs you.
2. Make eye contact which lets your child know you are with them. This also, keeps you focused on them rather than what’s next on your mind.
3. Don’t interrupt them once they’re on a roll. Let them finish what they are saying before you comment.
4. Paraphrase what your youngster just told you, so they know you heard them accurately. Then they feel listened to and heard. If you aren’t accurate this is their opportunity to correct what you heard and then you’re really on the same page.
5. Continue by asking questions to clarify what your child is saying and they will appreciate that you want even more information.
6. Then stretch the dialogue even more by asking them to tell you more about some detail.
7. You discover you are really in touch with your child and they know it. You’re learning what’s on their mind and they feel grateful.
8. You may not hear a “thanks for listening” but you’re laying the ground work for more dialogues like this.
9. Once you think you know what your child is trying to get across, you may have comments or opinions about what you heard. Keep the discussion open ended by asking questions, rather than making declarative remarks. For example, say, “Did you mean that…?” “I think that…” “In my opinion…do you agree or disagree?”
10. This keeps your discussion open to further comments from them rather than being too adamant about your point of view and shutting your youngster down.
The upshot is that you have probably gotten behind in whatever you were planning to do before the conversation began, but you have accomplished much more than whatever is on your list. So dinner is later, chores are delayed, you make that phone call later, but you have just had a private moment with your child or teen that is significant because they feel you care because you have genuinely heard what they are saying. That’s what parenting is all about—getting to know your kid really well. They know when you are truly with them and this strengthens the parent-child relationship. When something happens that is crucial, they’ll know they can trust you will listen and they’ll be heard.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website for more guidance at http://lauriehollmanphd.com.