How to really listen to your child and improve their mental health
Mental health experts at the Women’s and Children’s Health Network have a put together some simple tips on Listening to Improve Children and Young People’s Mental Health and how this can have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
Talking with your child or teen can often feel like navigating uncharted waters. Adolescence is a period of significant change, and as a parent or carer, it's crucial to establish a strong line of communication to support your child during these formative years.
Tip 1: Find the Right Time
Depending on the age of the child and what they like to do, you could play a ball game, cook or bake together, go for a walk or do a puzzle. For young people, go for a coffee, a jog or a drive or share music. The idea is to create a relaxed atmosphere – for both of you – that takes the focus away from ‘having a talk’.
Tip 2. Listen with your whole self
80% of communication is in the non- verbal. Put away distractions like phones or computers and maintain eye contact so you can give child your full attention when they want to talk. By actively listening, you show that you value their thoughts and feelings, which encourages open and honest communication.
Tip 3: Ask questions
Encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions that require more than a simple "yes" or "no" response. Questions like, "What's been on your mind lately?" invite your child to share more about their thoughts and feelings.
Tip 4: Focus on feelings
Try to the identify the feelings they share with you. Check you are understanding them by saying, It sounds like you are feeling (insert emotion)? By repeating what you hear by using similar words and language you can check that you really understand what they are telling you.
Tip 5: See issues through their eyes
The thoughts and feelings of a child are just as important as those of an adult. Be empathetic when listening to your child and put yourself in their shoes. Try to think about how you might have felt or thought about something when you were their age to get a different perspective.
Tip 6: Reassurance
The most important thing you can offer your child is love, safety and support. It’s good to remind them, on their good days and their not-so-good days, that you love them no matter what. This reassurance helps to remind them that you are a trusted and safe place for them to be themselves.