When you listen well to your son or daughter (or to anyone), you’re loving them. You are giving them the gift of yourself and of your time. Time is a valuable commodity. It’s one you can’t get back. Once you use it, it’s gone. So giving your time to someone is very valuable. Listening well can improve communication by leaps and bounds. Many strained relationships have improved just because of this skill.
If your child is making poor choices and dangerous decisions on a regular basis, struggles with mental illness or their sexual identity, it can be very difficult for you to even want to sit down and listen to them. If they share upsetting things you’d rather not know about or problems you have no solutions for (and you shouldn’t be solving them anyway, especially if they’re an adult – no enabling, remember!), these are a few responses you could try:
– I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine what this must be like for you.
– So you’re saying, ” . . . . . . . . Is that right?” (Reflect back to them what you hear them saying. Repeat it the best you can. We’re often wrong. This gives them a chance to clarify.)
– That must be really hard, but I’m confident you will figure it out.
– I’m sorry that happened. Thank you for telling me about it/sharing with me.
– Tell me more about that. How do you feel about it?
– What do you think you should do?
– Boy, that’s a big challenge you’re facing. I’ll be praying for you. (Stay strong and be careful not to offer to help if you have decided to stop “helping” because you realized it’s not really helping – it’s only keeping them from experiencing consequences and keeping them too dependent on you. If this is a phone conversation, pray for the courage to say a short prayer for them on the phone. Ask if it’s okay first. They will appreciate that you asked and they just might surprise you by saying, “yes!”)
– May I share with you a few ideas I have about that? (Be sure to always ASK FIRST before giving any advice or suggestions, too. They usually don’t want it. Doing this sends the message that you don’t think they’re capable. Then they feel invalidated. More trouble. You probably never even knew what you did wrong.)
With God’s wisdom and help there is hope for us. We can improve our listening skills and in the end make our child feel more loved.
Lord, you are the expert Communicator. You gave us two ears, yet only one mouth. Listening might be more important than talking. Teach us to listen twice as much as we speak. With your Divine help we have hope that we can learn to communicate better, not only with our children, but with everyone. May they notice how much we’re trying and may they feel more loved because of our efforts.