When your children speak to you, you nod, answer or react in some other way, don’t you? You hear the words that are coming out of their mouths, but do you really listen to what they are saying? We’ve all been there – your mind is elsewhere and you realise your child is waiting for an answer but you’re not quite sure what the question was.
Children don’t speak in riddles, but very often, we need to listen carefully, read between the lines and hear what our little ones are really saying. And sometimes it is as simple as just listening a little bit more than we already do.
The incessant questions while you are busy reading, cooking or chatting to a friend can get on your nerves, but they could also be telling your that your child needs some one-on-one attention. Their pain in the tummy before leaving the house might be a delay tactic, but it could be a touch of anxiety that you need to talk to them about.
But even if they are just telling you the stories of what happened at the playground, in school or at creche, remember that those stories are important to them just as our rants about work or traffic are to us adults. Children should be entitled to the same attention we give a partner or friend. An engaged response in the form of a few questions, some praise, whatever seems approriate to what they are telling us can go a long way towards improving a child’s confidence and feeling of security at home.
Hard as it seems to find the time, especially when both parents work and there are other children to be looked after too, attention from and interaction with parents is incedibly important to children. If you look closely at life, it can be surprisingly easy to find the time to listen to and spend time with your child. Involving them in the household chore you are doing while they are talking to you is one way. Another is to stop for a moment and sit with the child while they tell you whatever it is they want to say. Mealtimes and bedtime can be used for chatting too. It makes a welcome break from giving out and may distract the child from their usual mealtime or bedtime antics.
Often we tend to focus on attention as quality time – undertaking a special activity or treating the child to a trip. Really listening, however, is different. It is simply being with your children and concentrating on them when they need you, wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing. You can find the time for that, can’t you?
[This post originally appeared on HerFamily.ie when I was their guest blogger for a week in June 2016.]