How you can use this one skill to start your child on the right tracks for a lifetime of positive mental health.
8 do’s and don’ts when listening to your child. A key parenting tool.
Becoming an active listener for your child has great benefits for them. It helps them learn to vocalise their emotions and is a big step towards teaching your child how to manage their emotions positively and stop depression and anxiety before it starts. As reported by the Mental Health Foundation, 50% of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24. Here at WeParent, we give you the parenting tools and strategies you need to stop this in its tracks.
So how do I help my child to talk about their emotions??
This is all about giving them the words so they can actually describe to you what they’re feeling. Whether your little one is 4 or 8, this is absolutely the best time to teach your child words to help them understand what they’re feeling and stop them acting out, throwing a total wobbler in the supermarket or hitting their sister over the head because they’re confused about their feelings. Now, I’m not saying this is all the time, yes there are going to be times when your little one is just trying to push the boundaries and have their own way. But there are plenty of times when they’re being ‘naughty’ but they’re actually just confused or they’re emotionally distressed.
Once they’ve started to get the skill of using words to describe how they’re feeling – and by skilled, we don’t mean total perfection. This is doing it 8 times out of 10 – it’s time to start getting yourself in the zone of being able to actively listen to your child. This really is the game changer in helping your child to be able to manage their emotions well, versus keeping everything to themselves. We’ve all seen the stats in the news in recent months, with government funded research recently stating 24% of girls and 9% of boys are clinically depressed by the age of 14. As a parent to young children, that’s an extremely worrying thought right? Not to mention, the pressure on CAMHS and the NHS.
But worry not. You can do something about it. Spending your parenting time between the ages of 4 and 8 on your child’s emotional development greatly reduces the chances that your child will fall victim to anxiety and depression. Simple as. Yes, this does mean putting in some groundwork as a parent. Of course it does. But, to know that you are setting your child up for a lifetime of positive mental health, to have meaningful relationships and to cope with the stresses of life, is something every parent wants for their child. Don’t we?
The 5 Do’s and 3 Don’ts when listening to your child:
- Be prepared to accept the feelings and perceptions of your child as real for them, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Be objective and resist the urge to pass judgment.
- Keep your feelings out of the conversation. This is their time.
- Make the time, your child needs your full attention. Find a time your child is comfortable to talk to you. It could be while doing an activity, but make sure you are fully focused on them.
- Let your child be emotional if they need to. Don’t try and cheer them up, or stop their emotions coming out. Just listen.
- Don’t give your child answers to their problems. Encouraging your child to find their own solutions will help them process their emotions and find solutions they are comfortable with.
- Don’t have an agenda. This is your child’s time to just talk and let things out. Resist the temptation to teach them things or criticise how they handle things.
- Don’t feel you need to fix things for them, you are fixing it just be listening.
So, if you make one change today in your parenting, active listening is a fantastic place to start. Keep practicing, it’s a skill. Especially when you’re so emotionally invested in the person doing the talking. But, this will build an environment where your child always has that person to come to, knowing they will be listened to and they won’t be judged. Be they 4 or 40.