by Robin Goldstein-Lincoln
Don’t underestimate how helpful it is to your children that you listen without judgment and understand their feelings. When you listen without judgment it helps children share more about what they are feeling. It can also help them feel safe enough to share their feelings about other issues or challenges that they are experiencing in their lives.
Focus on listening instead of advising. Show your support by asking open-ended questions such as, “What was that was like for you?”, and offering statements of acknowledgement such as, “I can imagine how hard that must have been.” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Your children will correct you, and in so doing help you better understand their experience.
After deeply listening, you can see if your children need anything else such as:
Personally Relating to Their Experience
Telling a story of a time when you experienced something similar.
Brainstorming some ways to manage or respond to the experience they are having.
Containing The Experience
Putting the topic to the side so they can go about their daily activities. Examples could include writing or drawing their concerns and placing them in an envelope or box, or visualizing the topic being placed in an imaginary container like a spaceship or a cloud.
Don't be surprised if being heard and understood is truly all that they needed.
Deeply listening without judgment is a powerful intervention!
Your children may change the topic or initiate a new activity to signal they are ready to move on. You can ask them if they are done talking. You might also ask them to share what felt helpful, and anything they would like to be different next time.
Then, follow their lead and move on. They will be back for more listening soon enough!