Talking about the Important Things…
If we want children to talk to us about important things and come to us for help – now and in the future – we have to show them we can do two things for them –
- Listen. Listen with our whole being. Truly turn our attention to them, make eye contact, deeply connect, and hear them.
- React with calm, love, and understanding, not just to the good stuff but to the challenging stuff too.
The chances are the important things, or their worries or mistakes won’t be easy to talk about. So we need to make ourselves as accessible & responsive as possible.
If children learn that our reaction will be one of disappointment or anger – or that our reaction is unpredictable – they won’t come to us for help. We need to react with love if we want them to trust us with their mistakes or their worries.
Here’s the key thing – we can’t choose what we want to respond to with love. A response is a response. In a child’s mind there’s no difference between us responding when they’re hurt themselves falling over, or when they’ve hit their sister. In both situations they’re not feeling ok. We can’t react with understanding to one and not the the other and expect them to know the difference.
If we want them to know they can tell us when they’ve messed up or they’re in trouble – whether 6 or 16 – we need to respond with love and understanding when they are little.
That doesn’t mean not having boundaries. It does mean seeing through the behaviour to the feelings underneath so we can respond with love, kindness & empathy.