listening imageGive your children the gift of really listening to them.  We all want to be heard and feel like someone cares about how we feel and what we have to say.  Being heard and validated can give your children confidence and a sense of safety when they’re feeling scared and uncertain.

One of the simplest techniques you can use to be a masterful listener is to reflect back to your kids what they say to you.  For example, if your child mentions being worried about you not being married anymore, you can say “It sounds like you’re concerned about how things are going to be once we’re divorced.  I can understand why you would feel worried.”

You can also say short phrases to validate their thoughts and feelings, like “I know”, “That’s right”, “You’re right”, “I understand”, “I’m sorry”, and so on.  You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but because you’re focusing on listening it’s not a good idea to tell them why you don’t agree.  It’s much more important to allow them to say what’s on their mind and let them know it’s perfectly okay to be thinking or feeling whatever they are.  So when you don’t agree or like what they’re saying, you can respond with “I hear what you’re saying”, or “I appreciate you sharing your thoughts”, or “I’m so glad you told me what you were thinking.  Now I understand better what you’re going through”.

It’s okay to ask some questions to find out more, but be careful not to push for information or ask questions that sound judgmental or accusatory.  Focus on being curious and compassionate and you will be surprised at how much your children will open up to you.  The most important thing to remember is that they should do more talking than you.

Telling your children that you’d like to talk or sitting across from them and asking them questions one-on-one when you’re not doing anything else can feel intimidating or uncomfortable for your kids.  Depending on their ages, they will be more likely to talk when they are doing something else like coloring or riding in the car or playing a game.  If your kids are still young enough that you do a bedtime ritual with them, this is sometimes a good time to cuddle up together and talk about how things are going.

Be aware of what you’re children might be trying to tell you even when they’re not saying it directly.  Notice what they say to each other and pay attention to what they draw or write, at home or at school.  

Of course if you are concerned about their behavior or things they’ve said, written or drawn, certainly consult with a child specialist to make sure they get professional help if it’s needed.

“To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” ~John Marshall