Communicating with our children can be a difficult task at time. Oftentimes while we feel like they are not listening to us, they feel like we are not listening to them. Good listening and communication skills are essential to successful parenting. Your child’s feelings, views and opinions have worth and you should take the time to sit down and listen openly and discuss them honestly.
It seems to be a natural tendency to react rather than to respond. Even as parents we sometimes pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences. Responding means being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions by allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from us.
By reacting, we send our child the message that their feelings and opinions are invalid. Responding and asking questions about why your child feels a certain way will open a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further and allows you a better understanding of where they are coming from.
Responding also gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own. Your child will also appreciate the fact that maybe you do indeed understand how they feel.
It is crucial when you are having a discussion with your child that you give them your full and undivided attention. Put down your smartphone, stop doing the 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 solutions to the problem.
Allowing distractions to come between you and what your child has to say will only perpetuate unhealthy communication and your child will be less likely to approach you about their issues in the future. Just like the expression, “I feel like I’m talking to a wall,” your child may eventually grow tired of not being heard and stop opening up to you.
Never discourage your child from feeling upset, angry or frustrated. Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from these emotions but this can be a detrimental tactic. Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way and then offer potential solutions to alleviate bad feelings.
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 can show 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.