Tuning in to Your Kids

The art of listening is one of the most important skills parents need to communicate with their children. Most parents lead hectic lives and can find it tough to give kids their full attention. But doing that at least once a day can make a big difference.

Listening to Your Children

Sometimes, children need to know that they are being heard, especially if something is bothering them. Parents often try to keep their children from getting hurt so they are quick to offer advice to help them solve their problems. But it’s important to help children manage their own emotions and give them opportunities to solve problems on their own.

For example, your child tells you that someone at school made fun of them. Try not to jump in to offer a solution. Instead, give a supportive response that reflects how the child feels, such as, “That must have hurt your feelings.” When you avoid jumping in with a quick fix for the upset child, the child can relieve their stress and take responsibility for their problem.

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Reflecting Feelings

Sometimes all it takes to meet a child’s emotional needs is to reflect their feelings. A simple statement like, “You seem sad today,” lets a child know that you’ve seen their pain. If a child has a problem, the parent could ask what might make things better. Let kids know their opinions count.

Body Language

A parent’s body language is often as important as their words. When you talk to your child, get down on their level and make eye contact with them or put an arm around them.

Your child will be more comfortable opening up if you can give them your full attention. But if you can’t listen just then, tell your child when you will be available and make time to talk.

Naming the Feeling

Many children behave aggressively when something is bothering them. When they are able to express their feelings, they are less likely to lash out or become aggressive. For example, a young child may yell and scream if they can’t figure out how to play a new game.

You could say, “I can see you’re really frustrated,” and let them respond. If you can describe your child’s feelings in words, your child will know that their parent recognizes their frustration. When they’re calm, they’ll be better able to work it out or ask for help.

Building the Relationship

Kids whose parents listen to them when they were young are more likely to turn to their parents for help in their teen years when problems may become more serious. When a child knows they can release their strong feelings in a supportive home, they feel secure enough to express themselves honestly. That shared trust forms the basis of a closer parent-child relationship.

Build time into each day to really listen to your kids — whether you’re driving together in the car, tossing a ball in the yard, chatting over dinner, or winding down at bedtime. If you can fine-tune your listening skills and reflect on their feelings, you’ll be better able to tune in to your kids’ lives.

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.