Like most, I am a busy gal. I hustle from one thing to the next and most nights I fall into bed having “earned my sleep”. But my thoughts often drift to moments throughout my day where I dropped the ball in being mindful when I’m listening to and communicating with my children. Did I make eye contact with the tween enthusiastically telling me about her math test scores? Did I show interest in my fourth grader’s science experiment involving dominos and Legos? Did I notice the sadness on my daughter’s face when she was telling me about a negative interaction with a peer? Odds are that I have fallen short in atleast one of these interactions just today.
I know that I can do better, so I made a list of five tools that I can use to be more mindful when I talk with my children (and my husband and others!). Since I started using these more proactively, they have definitely helped me be more engaged as a mother to many! I hope they will help you, too.
- Give your kiddo your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. I make a conscious effort to put down my phone, turn off the television, and stop whatever I might be doing (laundry, dishes, dinner prep for example) to give my attention to the child talking to me. This sends the message that they are important to me and that I am interested in what they have to say.
- Get down on the SAME LEVEL if possible and MAKE EYE CONTACT. It isn’t always possible to get down on the same level, but eye contact is very important. Turning and facing my kiddo and looking at them while they talk also allows me to watch their body language, observe their physical reaction to what they are telling me. These are clues to what might be going on and when I should ask some follow up or clarifying questions.
- REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE! Give them a hug, a high five, a fist bump or even a simple squeeze of the shoulder. I have seen more than one sad kiddo feel better after a hug and an angry or discouraged child calm down through the power of positive physical touch. Don’t be afraid to use it!
- VALIDATE your child’s FEELINGS. Just like adults, children have feelings. But they do not yet possess the ability to always respond positively to those feelings, to identify why they are feeling a certain way, or to even identify that feeling. Saying “I hear you” or “I bet that hurt” are good ways to validate your child when they share their feelings with you. I try to avoid using statements that invalidate such as “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “it could be worse”.
- BE POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING. Life is hard for kids and adults. My children often reflect my response to what they as individuals are experiencing or what our family is going through. Telling them you believe in them or helping them see the positive sides of challenges are important. It’s okay to be discouraged, it is a feeling after all! But teaching our children to dust themselves off and move forward through their challenges, mistakes, and hard bits of life with positivity is essential to helping them build the resilience necessary as successful adults.
Being a parent is hard. Combine that with all of the other demands on our time and the people we communicate with often get the short end of the stick. I hope these five tips will help you be more mindful as you communicate with the most precious parts of your day — your children and family!