Children live in the here and now. There are many activities and many different situations in a child’s day. While adults are often thinking about what comes next, children want, hope and live in the present. Here are some ideas and tips about listening to children and asking questions.
There’s much talk these days about mindfulness, but it’s not always easy in everyday life. Adults have to think about many things related to the home, work life, children and hobbies. There are plenty of schedules and obligations. In contrast, children live in a world of desires where they want to get things and to experience stuff.
The art of listening:
It’s a good idea to practise stopping and mindfulness together. This increases the feeling that ‘it matters’ and helps you notice the good around you. On holidays and weekends, stopping and listening calms you down and may even make leisure time seem longer.
Here are a few tips for adults on how to show children that you are listening:
- Stop what you’re doing and look the child in the eye.
- Listen to your children when they are eager to share their thoughts.
- During the conversation, focus on the child’s feelings (not your own) and try to hear what lies behind the words.
- Show genuine interest in what the child is telling you and let them finish before answering.
Hanging around at home with nothing special to do is good for you
If your everyday life is hectic, it’s a good idea to practise hanging around at home, doing nothing special, together with your children. During holidays or on weekends it’s a good idea to have some ‘empty’ hours with nothing planned, so that you can listen to your own thoughts. Something new and exciting can come up in these situations.
Sometimes kids complain that they have nothing to do or that they want to play on the computer because there are no friends around.
These situations can be difficult for adults and cause feelings of irritation. Holidays offer an opportunity to stop and try to hear what’s behind the child’s behaviour – what’s this really about? Helpful tips include getting down to the child’s level and trying to listen between the lines. Children often need attention.
- Ask me how I feel.
- Tell me that I’m important to you.
- Do things together with me.
- Let me try.
- Comfort me when I feel bad.
- Tell me that I’m good just the way I am.
- Give me tenderness, closeness and time.
- Get silly with me.
- Encourage, compliment and thank me.
Talking with school-age children:
With school-age children, you should also try to hear what lies behind the child’s behaviour. What’s on the kid’s mind? School-age children can often respond with few words when you try to talk with them. Asking “Is everything OK?” may elicit a one-word response. Here are some examples of questions you can ask your school-age children:
- What would be/was the best thing today?
- What would you like to do more? (Or less?)
- Did anything surprising happen today?
- Tell me three things about today that you remember best.
Short daily conversations are a good way to keep track of what’s going on in a schoolchild’s life and at the same time to set an example of valuing others and taking an interest in them. Children also like to hear adults’ answers to these questions.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to have fun and break the routine. You can surprise your children (or your partner!) with a new question:
- Did the teacher say anything funny today?
- If you had a magic wand, what would you conjure up in the classroom?
- Who told the funniest story in class today?
- What word did you use most often today?