Listening isn’t always easy. We think we’re doing a good job, and then finding ourselves at a loss when the person we’ve been conversing with accuses us of not listening to them.
The problem is that most of the time, humans listen with the goal of answering the person they’re talking with. When we’re thinking about what words of wisdom or pithy remark we’re going to share next, we miss out on what the other person is really trying to say.
To be a good listener, we don’t simply need to listen – we need to understand.
Listening and understanding take effort on our part, particularly when we’re conversing with someone that we might not fully relate to – like teenagers.
But listening to our grandchildren with understanding is a gift that we can give today’s teens that they, unfortunately, don’t often get from other sources.
The Importance of Having an Open Ear: Why Children Need to Be Heard
Did you know that giving children a listening ear can actually help them create a better future?
According to UNICEF, when children feel heard and feel like they truly have a voice, they feel like they are a participant in their lives. This not only gives them some much needed confidence – it helps them and adults find ways to make the future a better place for everyone.
In fact, according to Carol Bellamy, who is the Executive Director of UNICEF, kids around the world have told her and other UNICEF workers that one thing they wish adults would do more of is listen.
In addition to giving children a voice in their own life, having an open ear provides a sense of validation. Not only is what they say valued – they’ll feel valued as a human being. And this is something we all need to feel.
Another reason why it’s so important to listen to kids is because it gives us insight into how they’re really feeling.
Listening for clues while your grandchild is talking to you might alert you to red flags that could indicate depression, trouble at school, or feeling overwhelmed by life in general.
Children need help coping with these things. They aren’t completely equipped to deal with them on their own. But if they don’t feel that they’re really being heard when they’re talking – it’s unlikely they’ll really open up and confide in an adult.
And they might try to deal with difficult situations on their own – which, in some cases, could be disastrous.
Listening and Understanding – How to Make It Happen
Listening with understanding isn’t always easy. For most of us, it’s easier to listen with a view to answer inquiries properly. But those we talk to aren’t always looking for answers. They want to know they’re being heard, understood, and that someone is truly sympathizing with them.
Here are the best ways to practice listening and understanding.
1. Be Quiet
This is the time for bluntness. Most of us just need to shut our mouths and open our ears.
We’ve all been guilty of not really listening to the person talking to us.
But keeping our mouths shut is one of the best ways for someone to feel heard and respected.
This will take some practice, but you can do it. When someone starts talking, direct all of your attention to them and really, really listen to what they’re saying.
Before you know it, you’ll be revered for your exceptional listening skills.
2. Have a Goal
Your goal when listening to your grandchild is to learn.
When your grandkids open up to you, they’re sharing their lives with you. You’ll learn about their friends, their teachers, and problems at school.
You’ll also have the privilege of being privy to their hopes, dreams, and fears.
3. Ask Questions
Asking open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”) will draw your grandchild out. They’ll share more and more with you when you ask questions with sympathy and show that you want to thoroughly understand them.
Caution should be used here, though. If you drill your grandkids with questions, they won’t view you as a confidant. You’ll seem like their interrogator.
Listening with Understanding – the Key to Understanding Your Grandchild
When it comes to listening to others, the key is not just to hear, but to hear with understanding. You can’t do that if you don’t keep an open mind and try to relate to the other person.
This kind of listening takes some practice. Most people listen to answer. This isn’t always what the other person needs, especially teens.
Yes, they will need words of wisdom and guidance from time to time. For the most part, though, they need someone to really hear them and to give them validation that what they have to say is important and worth listening to.
If you listen to your grandchildren with the goal of understanding them, you’ll strengthen the bonds of one of the most important relationships they’ll ever have.