“Being listened to is so close to being loved that sometimes your brain can’t tell the difference.”
There is something profound and moving when we are really listened to. It’s in theses moments that we build connection, we feel heard, safe and seen. When we are able to engage in this way with our children, it can set the ground work for creating a more harmonious parent-child relationship. However, these benefits can only arise when we are engaging in active listening. This is a skill that takes practice. In this blog will explore some of the ways we can jump-start our active listening skills.
What is active listening?
Active listening is the ability to hold space for someone, to listen while suspending our mind’s urge to make assumptions, give advice, or interject about our own experiences. This is a big task! To do this we need to be fully present with both our mind and body while bringing our attention to the exchange that is happening in that moment. One of the ways we can work on having more awareness and attention of the present moment is by engaging in mindfulness practices. There are some great apps such as Headspace or 10% Happier that can be an entry point into exploring these practices and often have a section just for parents.
However, times when our children or others need listening to often happen when our mind is doing a million other things to get through the day. So what are some in the moment skills we can utilize to help shift our minds into active listening mode? One of the first things we can do is take a deep breath and know we are breathing. Noticing our breath is a powerful grounding practice that can help put us in the here and now. Another way to help us move into active listening is by setting an anchor for our mind which might sound like us saying, “Listening” or identifying the moment by asking ourselves a question like, “Where am I? Who am I with?.” Both of these can help us move into being more ready to listen.
Additional ways to engage in active listening:
In an article from Kidsmatter they discuss some great ways that we can engage in active listening. Here are just a few of our favorites!
- Give your full attention: This is one of the biggest components of active listening and it can feel different from the listening we do a majority of the time. This looks like stopping what we are doing, putting down our phones, turn and moving towards our kids, and showing with our whole being there is no where else to be. We realize that can’t always happen but when it can, what a gift it is in a world that often demands our attention elsewhere!
- Using Encouragers- Active listening is a full body experience and one of the ways we can let our children know we are listening is by providing verbal feedback by saying things like, “hmm, oh, yea”, “tell me more”, “that sounds…” This lets them know we are still in the conversation and invites them to continue.
- Reflect Feelings- One of the great benefits of active listening is it allows us to express empathy with others. Reflecting our children’s feelings and thoughts back to them can be one way to do this. This might sound like, “It looks like you are feeling sad that you didn’t get invited to your friends party.” Reflecting back our children’s thoughts and feelings lets them know we are hearing the experience from their perspective and want to know more.
By practicing active listening we are actively practicing love for our children and those around us. But it’s a skill and like any skill, it takes time and practice. Be kind and patient with yourself as you are building up your skills.
If you are interested in exploring more on active listening, check out some of our favorite resources:
Ways to practice active listening:
The Whole Brain Child
Image: © Mladen Zivkovic | Dreamstime.com