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Listen to Build Connection with Your Kids

Even at the best of times, when we are balancing work, our households, and activities, it is difficult to make the time to connect in a meaningful way with our kids. Now, of course, we add remote school, working from home, and staying safe, and the difficulty is even greater. Yet, connection is key to our children’s development and well-being, and with the hurdles the pandemic has thrown in the way of building and maintaining connection with friends, teachers and relatives, connection between parents and their children has gained importance. Many frustrated parents are pointing at current challenging behaviors and complaining, “My kid doesn’t listen to me!” Children are able to listen when they feel heard. Slowing down to take the time for deep listening is one of the best ways to create connection with your child. Listening will enhance your relationship and help children to feel they belong and they matter.

  • Even between adults, we may find ourselves only listening so that we can get our point of view across. Adults may be able to take this in stride, but children will continue repeating themselves with words or actions until they are heard. Take the time to validate the emotions you perceive in their communication and be bold enough to state what you think your child may wish were true, even if it is something impossible or that you do not approve of: “You are feeling angry right now because you want to have a birthday party with all of your friends and you wish you could have them all here together, playing games.” Then pause. Sit in silence and be with them.  Listen to how they respond. You might even empathize with a time when you couldn’t do what you wanted to do and how it felt to you. Listening is an art. Learn about ways to help a child feel heard with this article on effective listening.
  • Powerlessness is a pervasive feeling right now. Adults, teens and children all feel it. Yet, the belief that we matter and have some influence and agency in our lives is crucial to our sense of well-being. How can you, within the confines of your own home, promote a child’s sense of capability and agency? Including your children in making the decisions that affect them is a powerful listening practice. One way is to do that is to start family meetings which include problem solving and planning. You can watch videos about running effective family meetings here.
  • Our children’s behavior is a form of communication. If we can listen to their behavior and learn what beliefs underlie it, we have the key to helping them get back on track. Here’s an example of the mistaken goal chart, a Positive Discipline tool that helps parents understand children’s beliefs behind their behavior, and here is information on how to use it.