Why Active Listening is Important in Parent-Child Relationships
How can I make my child feel heard? What can I do to listen more proactively to my teen?
Parent life can be tough and busy. You want to give your full attention to your children and listen to their stories, but there is a long list of chores you have to do. Your child may feel unrecognized or unheard, which can result in a distant relationship between the two of you. This happens; you are not alone.
Active listening might aid a healthy and open parent-child relationship. Continue reading to learn practical active listening tips and different ways to communicate with your children.
What is active listening?
Active listening means understanding what your child or teen has to say and giving your full attention to them.
Actively listening helps you understand your child’s perspective and where they are coming from. It is also a way of gaining vital information about what is important to your child. Active listening does not have anything to do with a decision being made nor is it a way to get the other person to do something.
Listening well means respecting your child and allowing them to express their feelings and opinions without fear of rejection.
Here are some examples of how to show that you are actively listening:
- Make eye contact
- Have an open body posture
- Use verbal cues like nodding
- Be aware of your facial expressions
Download this How to Be a Better Listener tip sheet for the full active listening examples.
What is good listening?
Listening does not mean obeying. Often when people use the word “listen”, it could be replaced with the word “obey”.
Good listening means to first seek to understand; to empathize, to walk a mile in someone's shoes. When you get a chance, please listen and try to understand what your child has to say. When deliberately listening, you are also curious. You ask questions to clarify what they said.
Here are some examples of clarifying questions:
- Did I hear you say… (repeat what you think they said)?
- Did I understand you when you said…?
- Did I paraphrase what you said correctly?
You can also try to find a way to validate your child’s perspective and feelings.
You can say this statement to show that you are validating their perspectives and taking them seriously: “I can see how/why that would make you feel uncomfortable.”
Why is active listening important?
1. Strengthens relationships
Trust and commitment are the pillars of a healthy relationship. Active listening creates trust and commitment that build strong relationships. When you are entirely devoted to your children's stories or struggles, you make them feel heard and respected. Because of this, they are confident that they can rely on you.
2. Resolves conflict
Misunderstandings and lack of recognition are avoided when you are fully committed to the discussion. Hence, active listening can help eliminate and resolve conflicts.
Imagine your kid telling you how they love this chocolate cereal. They repeated it three times already, and then you say, “Sorry, what?”. They sighed and got upset. In this situation, they did not feel recognized. To avoid this, you can try these reflective listening examples.
If you try the active listening examples, you can reflect on your relationship after three weeks.
Here are some insightful questions you can ask yourself if you would like:
- Did something change how my child responds to me after I became 100% present in our conversations?
- Does my kid talk more now and shout less?
- Do I feel like my child is opening up to me?
You can also ask your kids these questions to check your active listening skills:
- Do you feel heard when you talk to me?
- Do you think you can freely share your achievements and struggles with me?
No matter who you are talking to, keep in mind that active listening is a form of respect and commitment, which can build trust. And trust is one of the bases of any healthy relationship, including parent-child relations.
If you need further advice on how to communicate appropriately to your child or teen, our Parenting Communication Skills class might help. In this class, you will learn effective communication strategies, tips for being a better listener, and why being in the present matters. You can register for this class at the link below.
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