The importance of active listening
The most important thing when supporting children is to listen.
Listening to what a child has to say, how they feel, and what has happened to them, is one of the most empowering things you can do for them.
Children often feel overlooked, even when support is focused on their needs and arranged for their benefit, children are often not consulted regarding what they feel they need support with, what they are finding difficult, and what the support means to them. Asking a child about their thoughts and feelings, listening and reflecting them back to them shows you care and understand, and shows them they have value.
How to actively listen to a child:
- Concentrate completely on what they are saying
- Hearing is not listening – You should stop what you are doing, crouch down to their level, and make eye contact with them to show you are giving your full attention
- Avoid interrupting – Let them finish their sentence at their own pace, it may be hard for them to find the words
- Repeat back to them what they said – After they have finished speaking, repeat the words back to them to show you have listened and understand. You can add details and suggest an emotion which might help them understand how they may be feeling.
This way of listening creates a calm atmosphere where children feel able to talk about their feelings and express them in a calmer manner. Often, children will show their anger or worry in aggressive and introvertive ways as they do not know how to express their feelings as they do not understand them. By supporting communication and actively engaging in the conversation you can support a child’s emotional wellbeing and emotional awareness.