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  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

Stop trying to fix your child's feelings

“When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!” - Carl Rogers

One of the most basic human needs is to feel understood. When we feel understood, we feel relieved, accepted, and reassured that we can face challenging times. Why? Because someone took the time to step into my shoes and validate my inner world of emotions without any comments, words of wisdom, or solutions.

It's natural to want to intervene and try and fix your child's feelings. To watch your child experience fear, sadness, or anger is hard and you want to shield them from the things causing these emotions but in reality, you can't. The first step to understanding another person's inner world is by listening with empathy. Think about the last time when you were listened to/ not listened to and felt heard/ not heard. How did it make you feel?

The sad truth is that people have lost the ability to listen effectively. We are so quick with solutions, advice, and taking over another person's (your child's) problems that we've forgotten the most powerful communication tool in our pocket - our ability to listen.

In Parent Effectiveness Training we call this tool Active Listening and here's why we consider it one of the most important parenting tools:

Active Listening sends a message of acceptance

When we try to fix feelings we unintentionally send the message that feeling is not okay. By letting a child express the emotion without trying to stop it, hide it, or to make it better sends a message of acceptance; that what the child is experiencing is normal and okay.

Feelings are okay and your child needs to learn to self-regulate

Emotions are healthy, they help humans survive. Children are still growing and they need to learn how to regulate all types of emotions, and what better way of learning is there than learning from experience? When you step in and fix your child's emotional state, you are robbing them of that important learning experience.

"Active Listening works because it helps the child discharge strong feelings and think through a problem to get some kind of resolution." - Georgina Watson

By expressing emotion a child learns that he/she can handle feelings, that he/she is capable and independent. A child will learn that emotional meltdowns don't solve problems and don't result in getting what you want. A child will also learn that feelings serve a purpose and need proper attending.

The parent remains separate from the problem

Active Listening allows the parent to remain separated from the problem and eliminates the risk of the parent taking over and "owning" the child's emotion. Have you ever tried to help someone in distress and the next moment they are lashing out at you? When we take ownership of another person's emotion we are unintentionally telling them that they can’t handle the situation. It can make someone feel judged, misunderstood, embarrassed, or even hurt. And chances are that they could start blaming you for the state they are in. Active Listening enables you to provide support to the other and help them journey through the emotion and reach their own destination, making them feel more in control.

Active Listening takes practice. It allows a parent's to attend, to accept, and to listen empathetically. It is a skill learned over time and like any skill it needs to be practiced over and over again. Children are constantly developing and chances are that you will have to revisit your Active Listening skills over time. But know this, in the long run it is worth the time and effort!

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.

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