11_Mindful-Parenting

We all feel a lot better when somebody really listens to us.  Think about it. When you feel heard and seen by somebody else you feel validated and understood.  Contrast this to when you are in the middle of telling your partner, or friend something that is really important to you and they take a call on their mobile, perhaps interrupt you by telling you a story about themselves, or when somebody keeps glancing at their watch. When we have these experiences it makes us feel as if what we have to say is not important. We are not seen, we are not respected.

When we do not consciously make time to listen to children they too feel they are not important, that what they have to say is of no consequence.  I understand that listening can be hard work especially if your child seems to be taking a long time to get to the point of their story, or perhaps your child is challenging you or indeed they may be telling you their painful stories. You may even feel expatriated when your attempts at communicating with your child are met with responses such as ‘I don’t know how I feel’, or for younger children when asked what they did in school often respond by saying ‘I did nothing in school to-day’!  Or you may just want to get on with cooking dinner when your child comes to you with something they need to say to you. M. Scott Peck wisely said “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”

In this article I am going to offer you a few suggestions that may help improve how you communicate with your child.

Firstly let’s look at the importance of talking and listening to children and what it offers. Listening to your child improves your bond with them, and encourages them to listen to you. It helps them to form relationships and to build self-esteem. It helps them feel understood and therefore less alone.

Children depending on their age will have different skills at listening and communicating to you. As a parent you too will have your own skills at listening to your child.  At times you may be truly present and available to your child while perhaps at other times you are pre-occupied by the many demands you may have.  At times you may talk at your children as opposed to talking to them.  But you know how satisfying it is when you spend more time talking to your children, when you can hear their opinions and ideas, talk about fears and hopes.  This leads to setting seeds for open and supportive communication between you and your child.

With this in mind I am offering you a few tips on how to help you communicate in a meaningful and heart felt way with your child.

TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CHILD 

Make time to be emotionally available to your child.  Of course you are available to your child twenty four hours a day and you have many more demands on you. What I mean by being available is to stop what you are doing and give your child your full attention.

When talking to your child, try to remember how it was when you were a child and how you felt when your parents, granny, neighbour or teacher really listened to you.  It is easy to forget that children do not think as we do. There is so much they do not have the language or maturity to understand. They may not have the words to explain their feelings. But they truly ‘get’ the feeling of being listened to, understood by you the parent.

Try not to interrupt your child as he or she speaks. Even if your child seems to be unreasonable let them finish talking. In other words respond rather than react to them.

Become mindful of your child’s facial expression and body language. Sometimes you will see a change in your child’s face or perhaps their body tenses up when you say something. You could gently reflect something like ‘seems it is not so easy to tell me this, but take your time it is important what you have to say’. Or if on the other hand your child has a negative response to what you have to say to them you could say ‘I know that you disagree with what I am saying to you and you have your opinion. But it is important that I say this to you’.

It is helpful to repeat back what your child has said to you as this tells them you are truly listening. .

Let them know that you are interested in what they are saying by saying things like ‘can you tell me a little bit more so that I really understand you, or ‘I am wondering how you feel’ or ‘ have thought about what to do’ (obviously this response is more suited for older children.

Try not to start to criticise a choice that they made that was not in their best interest. Instead try to explore how they can make a better choice next time.

In conclusion when we feel listened to and understood it triggers soothing biochemical that strengthens neural pathways that help us soothe and calm ourselves throughout our lives. CS Lewis said ‘We read to know we are not alone’ let’s make it so that your child can say ‘When my parent listens to me I know I am not alone’