“Don’t just hear out your child. Listen to them.”
So do you know what’s going on in your child’s world? Do you know what their favourite colour is? Are you paying attention?
I think the thing is that, as a very busy parent or a carer or guardian or grandparent, it’s hard sometimes to look after all this tiny stuff – when there’s so much going on. Maybe it’s the tiniest stuff that’s about to break you but it’s sometimes we’re on this roller coaster and that’s where we need to put the brakes on. That’s when we need to start paying attention to the relationships inside the home. A lot of the relationships are fractured and confrontational because communication is breaking down.
“A child seldom needs a good talking to as a good listening to.”
We all need to feel loved, understood and respected. When we feel that our confidence rises, we have that sense of self esteem. We feel as though we can conquer anything when we know that someone’s looking out for us. We know that someone gets us. Someone is singing off the same page. That’s what your child needs on a daily basis.
They need to know that you’ve got their backs. They need to know that you get them.
How do you achieve that? By listening and giving them the space to tell you who they are. What’s important to them, what matters to them, what scares them, what excites them.
10 Listening Skills
Make eye contact – a lot of teenagers, they can’t stand eye contact because it feels like they are being interrogated. It’s the eye contact in all the other times, in all the interesting times. If you’re not hearing the small stuff and they’ve got big stuff to tell you, they won’t. That’s what they are used to; they’ve been ‘trained’ that you’re not interested and that anyway, their stuff doesn’t matter. Eye contact shows them that you are paying attention.
Do not interrupt – interruptions just have that message of ‘What I have to say is more important than what you’ve got to say’.
Avoid judgement – the minute you judge them, the shut down. They’re not going to confide in you next time. Let them speak. Let them get their stuff off their chest, even with sensitive issues. When they feel judged, they’re not going to open up.
Ask open ended questions – there’s a difference between, “Are you alright?” and “Tell me about how are you feeling.” or “What went on today?” Ask open questions, as that gives you the opportunity to show you are listening; that you are there for them to open up and elaborate further.
Watch for non verbal signs – there are many ways to see if they are holding something back from you. Are the avoiding eye contact? Do they look like they are covering something up? There are also the physical signs : are they staggering around or did they smell a booze or are their pupils dilated?
Look at the defensive body language – you are the best judge of your child’s behaviour. Are they being secretive in their language? Then look at the the bigger picture has the appetite changed or are their grades dropping or they’re not going out so much. It’s just, have these issues on your radar. Have the radar on to see what’s going on. Look for the messages.
Be supportive – you don’t have to condone their behaviour, but it’s important for them to know that you love them and that you’re always there for them, because that will shape them into the young adults they’re going to be tomorrow. Your kids want to feel comforted, heard, acknowledged.
Be the voice of understanding – sometimes it’s harder if you can’t see your child, they’re on the phone. Or you can hear in the tone of their voice that they are upset. Perhaps, you can feel the tension in their voice and you can hear the breathing. It’s just different. You can also hear when someone’s really having a bad time and maybe they’re just feeling hard done by, so just sense what’s going on. Being the voice of understanding is a way of acknowledging how they feel. Reassure them. Let them know that you’ll help them get stuff sorted or say ‘I love you” or whatever they need to hear.
Detach from your feelings – sometimes all that just needs to be pushed to one side. How liberating is that when you can detach your feelings and put your child at the centre of your attention. Just to bring them back to who they are. If your child knows that you’re always there to listen, you’re always there to support them without judgement and with unconditional love, they will come to you.
Be together least 15 minutes a day – so that you can connect with your child and just to listen. The ideal time is the school run. Travelling in the car is ideal because it’s neutral territory but maybe you can’t do that. So maybe involve a common chore or maybe they’re doing homework at the kitchen table or something, just fold the laundry beside them. You don’t always have to say anything, your very presence will start opening up the opportunity for you to be there when they are ready to talk.
As always – please drop any questions in the COMMENTS box below.
I have a video series on YouTube : All about Communicating Better with your Teenager.
Have a look here for the SECOND episode on Listening Skills : CLICK this link or the image below
If you want to keep this conversation going – why not come and join my facebook group : PARENTS : Teen Toolbox ™️.
It’s full of like-minded parents wanting the best for their kids.
Supporting Parents Build a Mentally Healthier and
Happier Generation of Young People