It’s no secret that as adults and human beings, we often find it hard to actively listen without thinking of what we’ll say next. We can oftenlisten to respond, but what we instead need to be doing is taking the time to listen, for the sake of listening, actively, not just to respond.
When it comes to communicating with your child, part of this entails active listening. No matter their age, listening creates a connection and lets your child know that you’re interested in what they have to say, what’s happening in their world and their opinions. Whether it’s your toddler telling you about the sand castle they made at preschool, your primary schooler who got picked last during sport, or your teen who’s having friendship dramas.
As a father or father figure, it’s your role to lend a listening ear, empathise and let them know you’re always there. If you’re not able to see your child every day, make some time during the week to phone them up for a chat.
How can I practise active listening?
- Make eye contact when they’re talking and stop any other things you’re doing.
- Don’t boomerang the discussion back to yourself.
- Get down on their level.
- Avoid asking questions whilst your child is speaking which might break their train of thought.
- Empathise and put yourself in their position.
- Become curious and ask questions about their music, interests, school and friends.
- Listen attentively, even when you’re afraid of what they want to tell you.
- Don’t try to solve, criticise or judge.
- You want them to come to you when they have a problem or have made a mistake. When they do tell you about issues – express your feelings respectfully. Don’t ‘explode’, instead, listen carefully.
- Tell them if you think they’ve made a bad choice, but ensure they know they are still loved and supported. Try saying “I don’t think that was a great call, and you’ll need to think hard about what to do about it now. But I’m really glad you’re talking to me about it, I love you and I’ll support you through this.”
Remember, you don’t always need to be the ‘fixer’ of everything. Just being there to listen is more than enough. You’ll make them feel heard, loved, and free to express themselves when communicating with you.