Listening to children onImproving communicatiwith your child
your child Children can’t always put“Spend time with their feelings into words, so One-to-onewhenever you can. you will make listening to them includestime together with d let him paying attention to their him feel special an t to you.” know he’s importan actions and behaviour. oolfson, Dr Richard C. W Listening is about two-way st child psychologi communication between you and your child, with each of you valuing and respecting the views of the other. Children who are listened to are usually well adjusted and self-confident, while those whose needs are ignored may be withdrawn or difficult and suffer from low self-esteem. Parents who cannot communicate well with their children are more likely to resort to smacking and hitting in moments of frustration. Communicating with your child is also vital in preventing child abuse, including providing your child with information on keeping safe, and being there to offer help and protection. We’ve collected the best advice from professionals, as well as some top tips from parents, to help you communicate with your child, whatever their age. To make for easier reading, this “Before I tuck the booklet refers to children as he or children him, and she or her in alternating into bed, we have a 10-minute sections. All the information applies ‘worry time’ chat. equally to boys and girls. They look forward to telling me all about their day, including the good bits as well as any problems.” Jo, mum of Chloe vice... For more ad g to , 9, and Bethany, 6 in ...on listen isit your child, v mily.org.uk www.yourfa
Listening to your baby Did you know? Your baby can recognise you and your partner’s voice soon after birth. This is because, while in the womb, your baby will have heard you talking and so yourYou can start listening to yourbaby from the very beginning. Tips to help you voices will be familiar as soon as she is born.Smiling, stroking, cuddling, cope with crying If you run out of patience, remembertalking to your baby and • Rock your baby in a pram or that being angry with your baby will only make the crying worse. You don’tmaking eye contact are all cradle or try going on a car ride, need to be ashamed of your feelings as these can often work like magic.ways of communicating. – most parents feel angry with their • Walk up and down with him or try children at some time. Go off andFrom the very first day after birth, your carrying him close to you in a sling. cool down, or take your anger outbaby will be listening to you and in a few • Sing or talk gently to him, or try on the cushions or have a good cryweeks you will be rewarded by smiles playing a tape of womb sounds or yourself. Go back and deal with yourand those first cooing sounds gentle music as this can sometimes baby once you feel calm again.– your baby is talking to you. help very young babies. If your baby cries persistently, ask your health visitor for advice or ring “I’ve read to my baby since he • Some babies find the sound ofOf course, crying is a very important a helpline like Cry-sis.part of your baby’s language too. If your was a few months old. He loves white noise, such as a vacuumbaby still cries after you have done all listening to me doing different cleaner or washing machine, soothing.the obvious checks – for hunger and voices, actions and songs, and • Try swaddling – wrapping your babythirst, wind, changing nappies, not being he tries to turn the pages! My very firmly inside a light shawl. Thistoo hot or too cold, or even just bored gives some babies the secure feelingwith their own company – you might six-year-old is brilliant at reading of being back in the womb.begin to feel desperate. but still loves us to read to him.” • Don’t be too quick to put your baby Sonia, mum of Louis, 6, and Frankie, back in his cot if he begins to Remember 13 months calm down. • Crying is perfectly normal behaviour • If your baby is very keen on sucking for a new baby. In the first few and you’re sure he’s not hungry or Find out more months of life, a baby spends on thirsty, you may want to try a average at least two hours in every dummy, but make sure it’s clean, 24-hour period crying. and never dip it into anything sweet. • Crying is meant to be a sound that Cry-sis • Cuddling your baby is usually the parents find difficult to ignore. This Provides support and advice best tip of all. If you can relax and is nature’s way of ensuring that your regarding excessively crying don’t feel too tense, you are the baby’s needs are met. or sleepless babies. best comfort your baby can have. • Crying is neither your fault nor your baby’s, and things will get better www.cry-sis.org.uk later on. 08451 228 669
right. It is a great confidence-booster make opportunities for conversation, and praise works better than preferably when your child is not criticism!” Shobha, mum of Rafi, 3 overtired from a long day at school. • Try to answer all of your • Spend some time reading child’s questions with your child As your child listens to you and looks This helps improve both her listening to you, they build up a picture of and her language skills, and will give themselves. “I used to tell my son ‘not you both a starting point to talk about now’ or ‘go away’ when I was too tired your child’s thoughts and feelings. to answer his questions, then I realised that I wasn’t helping him to learn. • Set aside some special choices to listening timeGive children Reminding myself of this now makes el listened it easier to cope and my son remembers “If you’re busy or too tired, it can behelp them fe all of my answers!” Nicola, mum of want to hard to make time to listen to your to: “Do you Kieron, 8 child. You might find it easier to set e or pink wear the blu • Look out for warning signs aside a special part of the day, such ?” socks today If your child seems unhappy or as just before your child goes to bed. You need to be flexible though. reluctant to talk, it might be a sign Listening as Sometimes small children just can’t that something is wrong. It might be wait to talk about something that is that she feels you are not interested important to them.” in what she is saying, or wants Eileen Hayes, to tell you something that she finds NSPCC parenting advisor your child grows up difficult to explain. Ensure that you Visit your local library Reading out aloud is great for your relationship with your child. Why not try Children learn to talk by listening • Fit listening easily into your visiting your local library to adults speaking directly to daily routine and choosing some books Talk about the things you see when them. By the time your child is you are on the bus, walking to the that you and your child three or four and has mastered shops, at the supermarket or during can read together? quite a lot of language, she will bath time. You could sing or recite a nursery rhyme to your baby when want to practise it as much as changing her nappy, or read a possible, and will use it to learn book together. about the rest of her world. This • Give plenty of encouragement may mean endless chattering When your child is learning to talk, and “why?” questions. Try to they will probably use funny words of their own and are bound to get listen and answer as patiently some words mixed up. “I shower Rafi as you can. with praise whenever he gets words
Listening to • Get help if you need it If you are worried that your child has a particular problem – for example problems at school or with friends,older children such as bullying, relationships, being the victim of racist attitudes, or a problem with drugs or alcohol – you may need to get professional advice. Some of the organisations listed in the section on special difficulties in this booklet might be able to help.Most of the tips about listeningto younger children apply toolder children too, but olderchildren also have their owndifferent needs. their parents, but they still need you. However independent your childrenBeing a parent to teenagers can be a seem, let them know that you’llchallenging, worrying and sometimes always be there to offer comfortdistressing time. While your teenager is and support.pushing for independence, you can feelrejected, criticised and confused. Here • Remember what it’s likeare some tips to help you through. to be a teenager The teen years can be a trying time,• Make it clear that you want both for parents and for children. to be involved Teenagers may behave like an adult If you find that your child never one minute and like a toddler the next. wants to talk to you about anything, you may need to work really hard at • Respect your child’s privacy it. A good start is to make it clear Older children particularly need that you are interested in them and privacy. They need their own space, in what they do. time to themselves, and the right not to communicate about certain areas• Respect your child’s views of their lives, for example their Don’t expect him to like everything personal relationships. If you respect you like or agree with everything you their privacy, they are more likely to say. The teenage years are a time confide in you. of testing out opinions and people, including parents. Your teenage child • Don’t impose your ideas is more likely to respect your views if It is fine to state that you have different you respect his views too. views, and your teenager still needs you to when• Let your child know you’re to be clear about acceptable limits to “Think back enager. you were a te ou their behaviour. However, imposing all there for them your attitudes, or trying to force him to lp y Older children need to learn how to agree with your point of view, will only That can he d’s point live without the constant support of make things worse. see your chil of view.”
Parents ta lk about listening Top NSPCC parenting advisor Eileen Hayes responds with advice for three parents talking about communicating with their children.Even when parents are ready to talk andlisten to their children, there can still be problems. It’s notalways easy to understand what children are trying to tell us.Interruptions Whining“My daughter always interrupts when “I don’t feel I have any choice aboutI’m talking to her dad. What can I do?” listening. My son whines all the time.Liz, mum of Rebecca, 5 I just want to switch off.” Dai, dad of Owen, 7Eileen “Her interruptions may be away of trying to get your attention. Eileen “Perhaps you need to makeHowever, if you do make a time to listen time to sit quietly with him and respondto her, explain that you also need time carefully to what he is saying. Once heto discuss things together as parents. realises there are special times when heYoung children often demand immediate has all your positive attention, perhaps Find out moreattention and will interrupt. As they he won’t need to whine. Try to avoidgrow older they will realise that they can getting into the habit of only respondingremember to say things later and will when he whines loudly. This negativeinterrupt less often.” attention will only make things worse.” Parents Advice Centre Gotateenager (Northern Ireland) www.gotateenager.org.ukPressure to deliver www.parentsadvicecentre.org 0808 8010 722 (Provided by Parentline Plus)“I try to listen to my son’s needs, but I can’t always be expected to meet them.” ParentsCentre onlineRaymond, dad of Adam, 3 Parentline Plus www.parentscentre.gov.uk www.parentlineplus.org.uk Your FamilyEileen “Listening is not the same as always giving in. For example, if your toddler 0808 800 2222 Positive parenting tipsis always asking for sweets, which you say he can’t have, you can still let him know (including ParentLine Scotland) brought to you by the NSPCCyou’ve listened by saying something like ‘I know you’re cross that you can’t have www.yourfamily.org.ukany sweets’.”
Some talking and Remember It’s important to listen to yourself and how you are feeling. Watch out for earlylistening tips warning signs of stress, such as headaches or tiredness, and take steps to improve things if you need to.Once you’ve got into the habit • Involve your children inof making time to talk and family discussions Depending on their age, allow yourlisten to your children, you children opportunities to have a say,might find these tips useful. such as on changes to routines and where to go for holidays.• Give your full attention • Don’t be too critical talk about this but explain that it isn’t If your child wants to tell you • Respect your child Try not to put your child off talking their fault. Don’t expect them to offer something, try to stop what you’re Remember that your child’s idea to you, for example by saying things you emotional support. doing so that you can listen carefully. of what is important may be very like “That was stupid,” “Why can’t If that’s not practical, explain that you different from yours. Try to remember you be more sensible,” or “Grow up.” • Don’t brush problems aside need to finish what you’re doing, and this when they want to tell you Hurtful words can damage If you encourage your children to talk, then you’ll be able to listen properly. something urgently, even if you self-esteem. Try to make positive you are bound to hear things that are busy. remarks instead. might disappoint or upset you.• Let them speak first Don’t brush problems aside. Find Look directly at your child while she • Don’t shout or nag ways of coping with them, and get is talking. For small children this Children soon learn to ignore nagging. help if necessary. means getting down to their level. Only shout if you need to warn your Don’t rush to respond. Otherwise you child urgently. Then it will have the If you have more than one child, it won’t really hear what is being said. right effect. can be especially hard to give your children the listening time they need.• Practise reflective listening • Reassure your child’s worries Try to work out a way of giving with small children If your children seem worried or upset each child some special time. But This means checking that you have by your problems, such as money or remember to set aside some time understood what your child has said, relationship difficulties, it is best to for yourself too. by using phrases like “So do you mean that…?” in order to clarify things. “The hardest thing is giving each child enough attention. After school• Let your child know that you each boy is eager to talk about their day and I make a conscious effort understand how he feels to listen to everybody. They get quality time from each other too, Sometimes it helps to say something making camps, creating imaginary worlds… Occasionally someone like “I know you’re feeling sad,” or “You must be feeling very angry to says, ‘Four children – are you mad?’, but a big family is so much fun. say something like that.” Never Their social skills are great and there’s always someone to play with.” dismiss your child’s feelings. James, dad of Jack, 10, Scott, 8, Will, 5, and Henry, 2.
Some s pecial difficulties Death Teasing and bullying If someone you and your child love Let your child know that youThere can be many reasons has died, let him talk about it and understand how she feels. Talk aboutwhy parents and children find be sad. Don’t hide the fact that you what happens, and together try to findit hard to communicate. These are grieving too. This will help him to ways of coping. Help her to learn how learn that it’s OK to cry and feel sad to show bullies that she won’t put uppages give some examples of when someone close to you dies, with it. If the problem occurs at schooldifficult areas and suggestions but that sooner or later, life goes on. and is serious, you must involve a You may need to prepare yourself to teacher. Never ignore bullying or hopefor dealing with them, along with answer questions about the nature it will just go away.details of other organisations of death. Kidscapethat may be able to help. Cruse Bereavement Care Provides information on bullying and www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk keeping children safe. 0844 477 9400 www.kidscape.org.uk Children with serious illness Relationship difficulties Young person’s helpline 020 7730 3300 or disability If you have serious problems in your relationship with your partner, your 0808 808 1677 YoungMinds If your child has a serious illness or a disability, communication children may well suffer, and you Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland Promotes the mental health of may be more difficult. You may probably won’t have the time or www.crusescotland.org.uk children and young people. need to consider other ways of energy to listen to them. If you become 01738 444178 www.youngminds.org.uk communicating with her and enabling separated or divorced, reassure your 0800 018 2138 her to communicate with others, such child that it is not her fault that your as through learning sign language if relationship with your partner failed, she is deaf or hard-of-hearing. and that you both love her as much as ever. Contact a Family Provides advice and support to One Parent Families/Gingerbread parents of disabled children. www.oneparentfamilies.org.uk 0800 018 5026 www.cafamily.org.uk 0808 808 3555 Relate A confidential counselling service for Capability Scotland relationship problems of any kind. Provides ASCS (Advice Service Capability Scotland), www.relate.org.uk a national disability advice and 0300 100 1234 information service. Relationships Scotland www.capability-scotland.org.uk Relationship counselling, mediation 0131 313 5510 and family support across Scotland. is different. “Every child Textphone 0131 346 2529 www.relationships-scotland.org.uk e special 0845 119 2020 Appreciate th child” our qualities of y
RacismIf your children tell you that other Additional resourceschildren or adults are being racist tothem, explain that racism is totally Use these handy resources with your child:unfair, and is based on ignorance andinsecurity. If the problem persists andoccurs at school, you will need to In the knowinvolve a teacher. Aimed at children aged eight to 11, this booklet helps children to understand the problems faced by those whoIf your child expresses racist views, are abused and advises them how to keep safe.you should explain why such attitudes Download from www.nspcc.org.uk/publicationsare unacceptable, and why thereare differences between people.Remember that children will copy Worried? Need to talk?you, so be careful not to show them Aimed at young people aged 11 to 18,unfair prejudices. this booklet provides information aboutEquality and Human Rights Alcohol and drugs ChildLine and other services that are there to help. Download fromCommission If you suspect your teenager is www.nspcc.org.uk/publicationswww.equalityhumanrights.com drinking heavily, think why it may beHelpline for England: 0845 604 6610 happening, and encourage them toHelpline for Wales: 0845 604 8810 think about it too. Beat exam stressHelpline for Scotland: 0845 604 5510 If your child has been experimenting This booklet for children and young people with drugs, let her know that you are provides guidance on coping with exams andNorthern Ireland Human Rights the stress they can cause, plus tips on howCommission confident that she can stop, and that you will offer her any support to get support. Download fromwww.nihrc.org • 028 9024 3987 www.nspcc.org.uk/publications you can. Drinkline Scotland Feel safe at homeSexism A 24-hour helpline providing support and advice on any alcohol concerns. Aimed at children aged seven to 12, thisDon’t stereotype your child by booklet uses straightforward languageexpecting boys and girls to behave in 0800 7314 314 to explain what domestic violence is,certain ways and enjoy certain things. FRANK how it can make children feel, and howEncourage them to do what they Provides advice to anyone affected and where they can get help.want, regardless of what others think, by drugs. Download fromand make sure they know that their www.nspcc.org.uk/publications www.talktofrank.comchoice of subjects, jobs and hobbies 0800 776600does not depend on their sex. SAFE: personal safety skills for deaf children Designed for group work use, this DVD-Rom helps give deaf children and young peopleTalking about difficult subjects the knowledge, awareness and language theySome parents find it difficult to discuss certain topics, such as sex. It is important need to stay safe and make better informedto give your child clear, honest answers to his questions. Obviously, the answers life choices. For further information and towill depend on the age of your child and your own values and beliefs. Keep purchase, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/safeanswers simple for very young children.
Children and young people when something’s “I tell my parents it out of my up with me, to get e hopefully system and becaustalk about listening ’ll understand. whatever it is they tion, or for I don’t need a solu ure out what’s someone else to fig a passive bothering me, just 16 (I’d like)“…not to be listener.” Maaike, interrupted or my parents to just assume what I’m talking about an d butt in. Or for them to say th ey know what I’m going through and come up with a solution – so metimes I just want to get it out, not solve it like I’m a problem.” A le, 16 “I like my mum and dad to say they’re listening, and then actually listen to me and not start doing something else, or start talking to someone else because when they do that, it makes you feel invisible.” Joss, 13 mum comes “I like it when my at school to into my classroom d talk to my look at my work an s who my teachers. She know ll her what friends are and I te ” Scarlett, 6 I’ve done each day.
More advice from NSPCC Helpline the NSPCC and Your family Our parenting pack Don’t talk yourself If you’ve found this leaflet useful, you might like to try some of the other titles out of it. Talk to us. in our parenting pack. They include plenty of advice on practical, positive parenting, and cover subjects like The NSPCC Helpline managing stress, encouraging better If you’re finding it hard to cope as behaviour and keeping your child safe Registered charity numbers 216401 and SC037717. Photography by Jon Challicom, posed by models. Stores code: NS729. a parent and want to talk, or you’re when they’re either at home or out alone. worried about a child who is at risk of abuse or in need of help, the NSPCC To request a pack, please send an Helpline is here to help 24 hours a A4 SAE (with £2 in stamps), mentioning day, seven days a week. the parenting pack, to the address below or download copies from Call 0808 800 5000 to speak to a www.nspcc.org.uk/parenting helpline advisor. For help by email email@example.com If you are hard of hearing, you can code: NS279. contact us Monday to Friday from . Stores 9am to 5pm by: by models m, posed Jon Challico • textphone 0808 056 0566 raphy by 17. Photog • British Sign Language interpreters and SC0377 rs 216401 on videophone 020 8463 1148 charity numbe Registered • British Sign Language interpreters on IP videophone or webcam – nspcc.signvideo.tv Home_Alone.in dd 9 8/7/09 12:05:1 2 26/5/09 13:57:00 Out_Alone.indd 1 NSPCC Weston House, 42 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3NH www.nspcc.org.uk keep “Don’t just 020 7825 2500 yourself. worries to firstname.lastname@example.org Talk to us” In association with Your familyDJ4646/09