Active listening with our children is not really about conversation, it is about holding a silence, holding a space to hear our kids.
When they open up a discussion, it is not so much about giving them the answers. Opening the doorway to communication is about saying things like “Sounds like you’ve had really strong feelings about that, tell me what’s happened?” and then just be silent, wait and hold the space.
Sometimes our children need a sounding board and if we suspend our response — answering in rhetorical questions, suspend the need to fill in the blanks — it allows us to dig a little deeper and helps them to work out for themselves what it is that’s actually bothering them. Of course, we can always step in and problem solve for our children, but it doesn’t serve them in the long term. Our aim with active listening is to help them work out what their issues are and how they can resolve problems and conflicts themselves. And you will find that when you actively listen and really hear them out, they come up with fantastic solutions all by themselves.
It is such a gift to feel heard.
Whether by our parents, our children, our partner, in any relationship. We are given two ears and only one mouth for a reason, we need to speak less and listen twice as much and give the gift of deeply listening to someone.
So, next time your child or teen comes to you with a problem. Try active listening and using some “door openers” like:
- — “tell me more about that?”
- — “what does that mean for you?”
- — “seems like you have strong feelings about that?”
Active listening is a skill to hone.
Surrender to the fact that our kids are innately very clever and that the more we empower them and encourage them, the greater emotional resilience they will have to communicate and problem solve.
When our children leave home, we want to make sure we are equipping and empowering them with skills that will help them to be resourceful and able to problem solve in the outside world.
Active listening can take the exhaustion out of parenting! As parents, its ok not to have to have all the answers. Rather, guiding our children to come to their own realisations is much more powerful for our children than simply being told what to do or think.
If you would like to learn more about active listening and other Parent Effectiveness Tec