Monday, September 11, 2017

10 Ways to Show Your Children You Are Listening

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Holy cow. Am I the only one whose kiddo goes on and on about Minecraft or DanTDM? I'm going to admit that I've no clue what he's talking about half of the time. But I still listen. Because I need him to know that what is important to him is important to me. Because I need him to trust that my ears are open to issues that are big and small to him. Because this will lay the groundwork for when he's older.

It's not always easy to listen to everything our children always have to say. Sometimes that work we've brought home, emails, or housework scream at us louder than our kids. But it's imperative that children feel they can talk to their parents about anything... The teen years are fast approaching. They have to feel as though they have an "open mic" to talk about problems they face, whether it be struggling in math, bullying, or issues with their body.
All that in mind, I've created a list of ten ways parents can show kids they are listening.
1. Put down the phone. Empty your hands. Remove any distractions you may have that would deter you from devoting your attention to your child OR that might make them feel you are not fully paying attention.
2. Get down on their level. If your child is not at eye level with you, sit or kneel so you can look directly in their eyes. Not only does this make you less intimidating, but it offers a more intimate setting for the conversation, whether it's about a fear they have or that they just want spaghetti for dinner.
3. Check your body language. Having your arms folded across your chest or your hands on your hips is not showing that you are open to the interaction. Relax your body, soften your face, and put a glint in your eye. Sprinkle some of that loving momma pixie dust over yourself. It'll do wonders.
4. Let them know you are listening. This can be done as simply as saying, "I can't wait to hear about..." or "I'm very interested in what you think about..."
5. Smile. Putting on a smile is like smacking a "welcome" sign on your face. It tells your child that you are open and receptive to what they have to say.
6. Make your facial expressions match their sentiment. I just told you to smile, right? But if the matter at hand is a serious one, obviously smiling is not the correct response.
7. Nod your head and give small verbal feedback. There's nothing that drives me nuts more than talking to someone and having give me a blank stare in return. It makes me feel as though my words don't matter or that I'm boring them. We can avoid creating these feelings in our children by nodding at what they're saying and inserting "Oh, really?!", "Wow!", and "Oh, my!" are simple utterances that can show your child that you're an active participant in the conversation.

8. Ask questions about what they're talking about. In addition to small verbal feedback, ask questions about the topic your child is speaking about, even if you already know the answers. This not only shows them that you're listening, but that you want to know more.
9. Repeat what they've said. Once they've told their story or shared their worries, give a 1-2 sentence summary. This is as simple as saying, "Wow! That sounds like an interesting game. I'd like to play it with you sometime." Or, "I'm so sorry your friend made you feel that way. What can I do to help you feel better?"
10. Touchback later on about the topic. Just because the conversation has ended, doesn't mean it has to be over entirely. At bedtime, you can thank them for teaching you about their new game, lesson at school, or other topic. If it's a more serious topic, touch base with them on the next day or two to find out how the situation is going.
Having conversations with our children don't always evolve organically. Sometimes we have to do things that don't come naturally to us so that we can be who they need us to be. Talk to your kiddos... It's not always easy... I KNOW! But it's so worth it to open those lines of communication.

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