3 listening exercises
The experience of listening can be hugely connecting and rewarding. Sometimes it just happens. Most of the time, though, it takes a decision to be present and an internal process to create these moments.
Stay aware of your breath during the conversation
Slowing down the pace of the conversation can help you give your child more space to explore what is going on for them. So often, we know what we want to say to our children before they even finished speaking. Next time wait until they stop speaking, and instead of offering your perspective straight away, take a breath or two. Take in what they just said, see how it lands. It might be easier to practise this on your own first - listen to this guided 9-minute relaxation before you spend time with your children and see how it changes your experience of listening to them.
If you want to invite your children to share more, try the next exercise.
Repeat what your child just said
Repeating what your child just said in almost the same words will help you both stay with your child's agenda, encourage them to explore and share a little more of what is going for them. It will help you to hold back from explaining your point of view or giving them advice.
Once you repeated what they just said, take a few breaths to give your child time to connect with what is going on for them. Here are a few examples of how it could sound:
The teacher asked you to put your book away before you finished the task.
You seemed quite excited about your first swimming lesson at home, and now you don't feel like joining in.
You are not sure if your time with daddy will be the same after his wedding.
Repeating what your child said will let them know that you are present, interested and listening and will prompt them to carry on thinking and talking about their experience.
Encourage your child to share more by asking some open questions
I like starting with some super open questions, like:
Interesting, can you tell me more about it?
What was it like for you?
How do you feel about it?
Sometimes it feels right to ask more directing questions:
What do you find difficult about it?
What do you like about it?
How would you like it to be?
Even though these exercises are simple, I don't think they are easy. Slowing down, holding back your agenda, staying present with your child's experience requires a fair amount of discipline. Congratulate yourself and celebrate each moment you manage to stay listening. If you would like to go deeper, we can talk about it in a free initial consultation.