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We are shifting our focus this month from concerns that parents have about their kids to concerns the EXPERTS have about our kids. For the next five weeks, we are going to let you know what issues the therapists are seeing over and over again in their work. We are also going to let you know what you need to do to avoid the sad situations they are dealing with. I can’t stress enough how important the information you are going to learn in July is! Make sure you check out each post/podcast made in this month!
For today: We get to discuss how to keep your kids open with you and talking with you about what is going on in their world. Would you believe that how you LISTEN to your kids can significantly affect their willingness to share what’s going on in their lives with you? Read below the learn the three-letter acronym you must remember to keep your children open with you.
Why we want our kids to be open with us
Let’s first think about WHY we want our kids to be open with us in the first place. When we understand how important it is to keep the lines of communication open between parent and child, we feel more motivated to do what it takes to keep those lines of communication open. While there could be hundreds of reasons why, I want to highlight just a few:
- So we can know what struggles they are facingHow can we really know what struggles our children are dealing with, what’s going on in the heart and head, if they don’t feel like they can talk to us? So much of their day is spent away from us, and the only way we can get a glimpse of what their life is like is if they tell us.We want them to be open with us so we know if there are some serious struggles that they are facing, struggles that they need help and guidance to overcome. In some situations, our kids being open with us could truly be the difference between life and death.
- So we can stay connected to themCommunication is the key to connection. When communication breaks down in a relationship, the relationship breaks down as well. SO much research has been done on how vital good communication is to each relationship. In fact, if a couple that is struggling to stay together can resolve their communication issues, they can often save the relationship.Why does communication matter so much? There is just something that happens when we share our thoughts, worries, joys, and feelings with another. We feel like someone really cares when they listen to us. Especially if they listen in the right way.The connection that comes from listening well to our kids can help them feel deeply loved by us and the reality is, KIDS BEHAVE BETTER WHEN THEY FEEL CONNECTED TO THEIR PARENTS. Study after study confirms that the kids who behave the best had parents that were:a. Firm about boundaries and rules
b. Connected with their kidsListening the way we’re going to teach you today can create bonding feelings in both the parent and the child.
How to Keep Our Kids Open With Us
We wanted a way for parents to easily remember the steps of listening, so we created an acronym to help you out. The acronym to remember is:
That acronym may look familiar to many of you. It’s also the acronym for an upper respiratory virus that can make it hard to breath. We used this acronym on purpose. We want your kids to feel safe enough when talking to you that they feel like they can breath. We know that’s cheesy, but sometimes cheesy things are easier to remember.
Let’s learn more about this acronym.
The first step to listening well is to simple receive the information that your children are sharing with you. How many times are you only half listening when your kids are talking to you? How many times are you thinking about something else while giving a mindless “Uh huh. Oh that’s interesting.” Have you ever done that so much that your kids caught you or you accidentally agreed to let them do something that you normally would have said “No” to? I am guilty of all of the above. We can’t listen 100% all of the time. Our kids talk to much to do that. But we do need to listen well when it counts.
We need to really listen when our kids are sharing something that’s really important to them or when they’re sharing something that is hard for them. When they’re sharing those kinds of things we need to receive the information well by FOCUSING on what they are saying.
- Give them your full attention
- Look at them
- Square your body to them
- Listen just to listen, don’t judge what they’re saying or start thinking about your response. Just listen.
- Say nothing, just let them talk
We get so good at multi-tasking that we forget how to do one task. While your child is talking, give them the gift of doing only one task…listening. Which leads to the next letter in our acronym.
If we want to keep our kids talking to us, we need to receive what they’re saying in a way that makes them feel safe enough to keep talking. I think each of us have been in a situation where we have been talking to someone and the way they received our information made us feel like we no longer wanted to share with them. We don’t want this to happen to your child, so here’s some things you need to avoid:
- Being critical of your childIf your child is sharing something with you and you say something critical about what they are sharing, they will most likely feel hurt and stop talking. Criticism comes in many forms, here are some examplesa. Telling them what they’re saying is silly
b. Pointing out what they did wrong in the situation they’re sharing with you
c. Making judgmental comments
d. Minimizing their emotions
e. Blaming themTo keep your kids open, it’s best to keep these thoughts to yourself.
- Trying to fix your child’s problemIt is important to just listen while your child is talking, save the fixing for later. Your kids just want an opportunity to share what’s on their mind and have you listen carefully. If you feel there is something that could help your child, wait 24 hours to bring it up again. You could say something like:“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you shared with me. There are some things that could help you. Do you mind if I share some thoughts with you?”Waiting helps your child feel like you are a good listener but still gives you an opportunity to teach your child things that could help them in their life.
One of the greatest needs that each of us have is to feel validated. But what does it mean to feel validated?
“Validating” means giving your child or teen that all important, and seemingly elusive, message that “Your feelings make sense. I not only am giving you permission to feel what you feel but I am also welcoming and accepting your feelings in a non-judgmental way.” -Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.
As parents, we have the opportunity to help meet this need in our children. As we meet this need in our kids, it will help create a deep bond between you and your child.
Listening well provides you with a great opportunity to validate the feelings your child experiences. You can validate your child by tuning into what they may be feeling, lovingly stating that you see those emotions, and communicating that those emotions matter.
Here are some examples of validating statements a parent can say:
“You look like you’re feeling sad”
“You’re disappointed your friend treated you that way.”
“You wish that wouldn’t have happened. I can see why you feel that way.”
“Wow! That must have been really scary for you.”
“You are so excited!”
Here’s one last thought about the importance of validating your child:
“It is crucial to remember that when children feel validated, they will be better able to hear you and change their own behaviors. Stay mindful of how important this is not only to you child, but also to your relationship with him or her. Validating your child’s or teen’s feelings is crucial to building his or her self-esteem and will promote solid, overall emotional health.”
-Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.
When listening, remember RSV. Be patient with yourself as you practice your new listening skills. Your efforts will pay off with time.