As a parent, is it strange to pair the ideas of being heard and being loved as equal in importance?
A parent might say, "Being heard? What does that mean? I work hard and pay the bills. We provide food, clothing and everything else needed to live. How is time listening to my family the same as loving them?"
I am happy to explain since it is very close to my work. Families seeking help often feel pressure to correct a situation. I am asked to find out what's wrong, address the problem and help the family return to its previous normal. There is a sense of urgency and a lack of time to allot to the situation. As a therapist, the disruption in the home is an opportunity to assess the role of each member in the family, how each member fits in and how the family communicates. I determine the components and participants around the problem by listening. Through what I hear, I begin to address the problem; everyone is involved. From there I offer actions to address the issue. It takes time.
Let's go back to where it all begins when parents decide to have this family. Dreams and expectations, as well as useful insights learned from each parents' individual childhood will help. The first child arrives. The primary caregiver speaks to the infant. The baby identifies familiar sounding voices, and the process of exchanging communication begins. Hearing and responding to an infant is paramount to the child's survival and sense of self. The foundation of an individual's self is created by interactions with the family and home environment. The baby's first sounds are thrilling to the parents; they celebrate and interpret each vocal attempt. The infant thrives on the attention she receives; she is heard!
As each subsequent child is born, the hope is that his place in the family is secured by being heard.
As children mature, they continue to require more and more from parents and additional demands are made from family resources for money and time. The environment becomes much larger than the family home and the child's options become more complicated and risky. Parents can become fearful and spend more time correcting their children than listening to them. My suggestion is to keep listening to your child regularly, always aware of unusual comments that may reveal a red flag. As parents stay present and calm listening seriously to their child, it creates trust and open communication. Sometimes worries and media scares can frighten parents. They can feel a desire to overprotect. I encourage prudent warning, keeping it brief and encouraging children to use safeguards such as cell phone check ins, buddy systems and regular family meetings.
The years raising children can be many things, some better than others. The steadfast calm of deep listening parents provides an open door to help and understanding. Your children benefit from close relationships with parents who know them through years of conversations and listening. There is a safe feeling of being loved because their parents heard.