The importance of talking and listening to our children!
My next Katie’s Classroom project is all about conversation and how we can start conversations with our children to support their mental health! I’m really passionate about this. I believe conversation is at the heart of supporting and nurturing our children’s mental health. I think something so simple like being able to start a conversation with our children will help enormously! It is this conversation that might, in the worst case scenario, save their life!
The Charity Young Minds say: “Starting a conversation can be difficult, especially if you’re worried that your child is having a hard time. It doesn’t matter what topic the conversation starts with – it’s about the opportunity it gives you both to talk about feelings and to provide comfort.”
Listening to and talking to our children is important for so many reasons! Having a conversation can help improve our bond with our children. It may encourage our children to open up and also listen to us. A good conversation can also improve our children’s self-esteem.
With a lot of children now back at school, I have noticed I have less time to talk to my children. My children are often so exhausted from the school day, they find it hard to talk about what they have done, let along having a meaningful conversation with them but it is important we keep trying. I have found bath times a good time to chat!
Not all children like talking and some children are desperate to talk all the time!
How can we be better at communicating with our children?
Good communication is all about encouraging our children to talk to us and even more importantly allowing them that space to talk and making sure we really listen to them so that they can tell you how they feel openly. We also need to learn to respond to what they are saying in a sensitive way especially if what they are talking about is a worry, fear or embarrassing moment. Also watch out for their non-verbal cues.
My 8 top tips on talking, listening and having a good conversation with our children!
1. Remember to really listen! Let them know you are listening and that you have understood them by making eye contact and repeating back what they have said to you. This process really helps to validate their feelings and makes them feel like they have been really listened to.
2. Set aside time for talking and listening to each other. This might be at bath time, bed time or on the journey home from school. You will get to know when they like to open up the most and try and use this to your advantage. Bass most often opens up the moment we stop reading a bedtime story – just as we’re about to turn the light off!
3. Allow them to talk about all kinds of feelings, like joy, anger, fear and anxiety. Make sure you offer your own feelings to them so they know adults feel these extremes too. Again, this will validate their feelings and make them feel less alone.
4. Practice letting them finish talking before you respond. It is all too easy to interrupt or put words into your child’s mouth - try not to do this. I sometimes have to literally bite my tongue!
5. Make sure you are using language that is age appropriate and that your child will understand. It can be easy to forget that they don’t get everything, and this can be a real barrier.
6. Show more interest by asking things such as “Tell me more about…” or ask them how they feel about the things they are telling you about to try and get deeper into the conversation. They may be trying to tell you something but not know how.
7. It is important to avoid any criticism or blame - appeal to their sense of empathy and if you are angry about something that they have done, explain why it is wrong and why you don’t want them to do it again.
8. Be honest with them. I really believe the if you practice talking and listening to your children from a young age, then you will both get into habits that will be useful when they are teenagers. They will feel more comfortable being able to come to you and talk to you about what they have been doing or come to you for help when needed, even if they feel vulnerable.