The skill of listening to our kids’ feelings is such an important one for parents. One of the main reasons is that when we listen well to our kids, we reinforce them to talk about their feelings, and we all know how important that is! Another reason is that when our kids talk about their feelings with us, they are letting us closer to them. They are giving us a gift by allowing us to understand them and to see them. And it’s that what we all want as parents? And despite how important listening is, y’all, it’s also a hard thing to do. So how can we learn this skill? How can we listen to our kids when they are talking about their feelings?
Practicing the skill of listening to our kids’ feelings
Over the years, I’ve created a simple, step-by-step formula for how to listen to our kids when they are talking to us. I talk about this formula all the time with parents who come into my office. But before we dive into the formula, there are three guiding principles I’d like to share with you all that you can keep in mind when working through the formula:
- We have two ears and one mouth, which means we should be listening two times more than we talk.
- Be curious and stay open to what your kids are expressing.
- Stay focused on listening and don’t jump into problem-solving.
“The quicker we problem solve, the more that shuts our kids down.”
– Amanda Sovik-Johnston
Now that we know the guiding principles to keep in mind, let’s get into the formula!
Step 1: Appreciate
This first step will immediately reinforce your kid to share with you how they feel. You can for example say: “Wow, thanks so much for telling me.”
“Anytime your kid tells you how they’re feeling, it’s a gift.”
– Amanda Sovik-Johnston
Step 2: Explore
This step is grounded in getting curious. Ask questions about their experiences, for example: “Was there a specific time you felt that?” or “Can you tell me more about that?”.
Be aware that you don’t use leading or teaching questions. When, for example, your kid shares that they’re frustrated about the to-do list you gave them, it’s very easy and tempting to say something like “Well, do you think I give you a to-do list because you’re not getting your stuff done on your own?”.
This step is all about understanding their experiences.
Step 3: Validate
Let your kid know you understand why they are feeling this way by saying for example: “Heh, I never really thought about that but now that you said it, I get it. Thanks for letting me know.”
Only when you’ve walked through all of these steps, can you ask your kid if they want help problem-solving. I talk a lot more about how to go about problem-solving in today’s podcast episode and I’ll dive deeper into both the guiding principles and the formula. You can find our podcast Active and Connected Families wherever you listen to your podcasts, or easily click the links below to listen:
In this episode on how to listen to our kids’ feelings, we cover:
- Why listening is such an important skill;
- How listening to our kids will help them;
- The guiding principles to keep in mind when listening to your kids;
- My easy-to-follow, step-by-step formula to listen to our kids;
- Why we don’t always have to problem-solve for our kids;
- And so much more!
More about Active & Connected Family Therapy
Active & Connected Family Therapy is a mental health practice serving individuals, families, and our community. Our practice is designed to help people at all stages and from all walks of life by offering therapists and physicians with diverse backgrounds and specialties via face-to-face, walk-and-talk, and telemedicine appointments. Throughout, we are committed to developing strengths-based, authentic, and long-lasting relationships with you and your children. We hope to provide you with the support and insight you need to help your family navigate life’s hard times and joys.
Are you or your child struggling with mental health? We have a team of psychologists and psychiatrists who can help you out. You can learn more about our practice or contact us here.
Resources and links mentioned in this episode
- We’d love to hear your feedback on our podcast. Why not leave us a review on Apple Podcasts?
- Connect with us on Facebook or Instagram.
- Want to learn more about why it’s so important to talk about our feelings? I talk all about it in this episode.
Disclaimer: Please remember we are real live therapists, however this is a podcast and is not considered a therapy session. Not only because there is no co-pay but also because we can’t speak to your individual experiences. We are here to help you keep raising healthy kids. And remember, if you are an imperfect parent, we are right there with you. If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, please call your local crisis hotline or go to your nearest emergency room.