It’s been a stressful school year for families; juggling your kids’ in-person and virtual learning with your work schedules, while isolating from friends and extended family. Perhaps the summer is the prime time to reduce screen time and increase your one-on-one time by engaging in active listening and dynamic conversations together.
Listening to your children:
“Listen and talk with your children, sit eye-to-eye and enjoy time in nature because this will improve everyone’s behaviour and mental health,” recommends Dr. Kelley Zwicker, Community Pediatrician and founder of the Ottawa Community Pediatricians Network from a recent CBC Radio Ottawa Morning interview.
Active listening encourages children to talk about how they are feeling say Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk.
“When kids feel right, they’ll behave right,” point out Faber and Mazlish. “By accepting their feelings, we help them feel right!” The book, now in its 30th edition, shows parents how to engage their child’s cooperation and ultimately, reduce family conflicts.
Chapter One explains how to encourage your child to talk about their feelings by:
- listening with your full attention,
- acknowledging what they have said with a simple phrase like, “oh” or “I see”,
- giving their feelings a name and,
- giving their wishes in fantasy.
Other chapter topics include: engaging co-operation, alternatives to punishment, encouraging autonomy, praise, and freeing children from playing roles.
The authors acknowledge that practicing new skills and patterns—and unlearning old ones—takes a lot of effort but that the effort is worthwhile. As one parent remarked after using the new approach, “I spent far less time nagging, pleading and arguing with my children!”
By changing how you listen and talk with your children you will find a way to:
- Cope with your child’s negative feelings of frustration, disappointment and anger
- Express anger without being hurtful
- Engage your child’s willing co-operation
- Set firm limits and maintain goodwill
- Use alternatives to punishment
- Resolve family conflicts peacefully.
While Covid 19 isolation has tested every family’s coping abilities, it may also have presented an opportunity to think about communicating with one another with patience and love. As Faber and Mazlish remind us, “Never underestimate the power of your words upon a young person’s life.”
Can you tell us about a conversation with your child that changed your way of parenting? Please write, we would love to hear from you.
For more links and resources on children and youth mental health during the pandemic, visit:
- Apr 27 2021 CBC News Ottawa article/ Pediatricians sound alarm over mental health crisis in youth
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
- Youth Services Bureau Crisis Line: 613-260-2360
- Ottawa Mental Health Crisis Line: 613-722-6914, 1-866-996-0991 (if outside Ottawa)
- Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region: 613-238-3311
- Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866- 277-3553
For previous Open Door blog posts on this topic, checkout:
- Book Review: Bounce Back How to Be a Resilient Kid
- Looking for imaginative, beyond-the-screen things to do with your children?
- Is e-learning in social isolation stressing out you and your children?
Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.
Marion formerly tutored teenaged students in a literacy remediation program at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa. She also worked as a paid fundraiser and grant proposal writer for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation, a national non-profit aimed at helping marginalized youth. She began her career in radio broadcasting and news writing and has worked in the area of promotional writing for several federal government departments and agencies, including the National Research Council.