It's a new year and time for building new relationships with kids. How do we listen to them and get to know them better, so we're really there for them when they need us? I always remember that feeling, "Am I really listening or is my mind on something else as well?"
How do we help our little ones and big ones to trust us to share their important secrets that they can't bear to tell someone else but desperately need to share?
We don't want to be their best friend but we do want to be their gentle advisors who believe in them and accept them for who they are. If it's not us? Who will it be?
7 Gentle Listening Tips for the New Year
1. When your child starts to speak to you, even if you're in a rush, hear her out.
2. When your child starts to speak to you, don't interrupt because you already know what's coming, let her have her particular way of telling you what's on her mind.
3. Teenagers find great fault with listeners who interrupt, so wait out their long complicated sentences even when they get convoluted. Then break them down into manageable parts.
4. It's so tempting to give solutions to well-defined problems but sometimes the child or teen only wants a sounding board. They don't even want our advice--just someone to hear them ramble on. They'll find the solution and even tell us about it later.
5. The first words in a discussion are usually the most important. They're like the billboard announcing the topic. Key in on them when it's your turn to speak and your child or teen will feel heard.
6. Some topics are serious and you're tempted to ask lots of questions. Hold back because the answers will most likely come tumbling forward of their own accord without your child feeling accused of something that will interrupt the flow or close it down.
7. Remember to thank your child and teen for sharing, so they'll want to come back to you again. They want to know you want to hear what they have to say. This builds your relationship.
What About Having My Child Listen to Me?
Becoming such a great listener to your child has set the ground work for their listening in return.
The mundane chores you want them to do may come along a bit easier now because they want to help their trusted parent.
You also might share with them bits of your day that seem age-appropriate. Kids like to know what their parents do all day and they are all ears to hear about it.
Enjoy your child this year. Share conversations, trust and good humor.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author with a book for the New Year that teaches how to listen well, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are found.