03 Jun Becoming a better parent: Trouble shared
Our Westview team member, Terry Owens, continues our series, Becoming a Better Parent. In this article, Terry shares important ideas about “Trouble shared.”
We trust the old saying, “Trouble shared is trouble halved.” Take a minute and think about that statement. Have we thought about the power of those words if applied to our relationships with our children? Do we parents take the time to hear our children’s troubles? I know I’ve been guilty of not taking the time to listen. I have been more concerned with what I had to say to my child than what they had to say to me. I’ve since learned that I was wrong.
When we enact “trouble shared is trouble halved,” we empower our children to communicate their needs, problems, and wants. We as parents want our children to come to us when they have problems. We want to help. Do we communicate that, though, to our children? Here are a few ways to improve communication with our children.
Active listening is the first step to real communication. Show interest in what your child is saying by responding: “tell me more,” “really?” and “go on.” These replies show your children that you think what they have to say is important.
Watch your child’s body language and facial expression. Active listening is not just about hearing the words; it is understanding what is behind the words: emotions, concerns, or hopes, for example.
Make eye contact and repeat back to your child the thoughts they have shared so they know you understood the message and its importance.
Avoid the temptation to jump in, cut your child off, or put words in their mouth. This is important! Even if what they are saying sounds ridiculous or wrong, wait and listen. If they are struggling to find the right words, give them time.
Do not rush in to solve their problem. Your child may just want you to listen. They may want to know that their feelings or point of view matters to you. We hope that our children are growing to become problem-solvers, so give them space to do that.
Sometimes you may need to encourage your child to tell you how they are feeling. Try making statements that open them up to describing how they felt, like, “It sounds like the other kids were playing ball together and you felt left out when they didn’t invite you to play.” You could be wrong, so check your perspective with them and encourage them to correct your language so that you move toward a clearer picture.
When we take the time to listen, we are telling our child that we are there for them and they can talk to us about anything. In our world, parents need to develop a habit of listening so that children know they are heard and we will help them—no matter what—without judgment.
Westview remains committed to helping families and providing proven resources to help parents to build a strong connection and attachments with their children. If we can be of any assistance to you, please reach out to us; we are here to help.