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Parenting: The Gift of Understanding

and Reviewed By Mira Djakov, MMFT

Having hopes and dreams for your child is one of the hallmarks of a loving parent, devoted to setting the course of a child’s life. When we show understanding to our children, though, they experience our love most clearly.

For a child, being understood helps them come to terms with their own emotions and thoughts. They feel they belong in the family. Providing your child with understanding will make them feel less of an object for you to govern, and more like a crucial part of your life.

Understanding From Earliest Age

If you’re doubtful about your ability to nurture understanding for your child, think back to their earliest age and how you cared for them.

When babies cry, you check whether they’re hungry, need a clean diaper, or are simply looking for affection. Perhaps they’re even frightened or none of the above. Whatever the case may be, you actively seek to understand the cause of their discomfort rather than scorn them for crying. Therefore, don’t cause yourself too much grief over not understanding your child properly, as you’ve already laid a good foundation without even knowing. Remember how you used to do it and do it again.

Self-Reflection at its Best

Before you attempt to understand your child, a differentiation needs to exist between your angst and the child’s angst.

Only through a great deal of self-reflection will you be able to answer questions such as. “What pushes my buttons?” or “Am I responding to my pain or my child’s pain?” To provide true understanding and support to your child, you need to be aware of your triggers. Then, you’ll be able to cope better with situations when your emotions might get out of control.

By becoming more self-aware, you’ll reduce the amount of stress you feel, and avoid seeing your child through a negative lens, as being constantly fussy and annoying, which is a slippery slope leading toward misunderstanding (Östberg & Hagekull 2010).

Be an Active Listener

There’s no better way to instill confidence and courage in your child than to be an active listener, engage them to talk more, and acknowledge what they’re saying.

Saying phrases such as “Tell me more” and “What was that like for you?” is a nod to your child, showing that you’re listening. As you listen, you are giving them a sign that they should feel safe about opening up and explaining to you the issue from their point of view. Then, you are allowing your child the opportunity to reflect on their challenges, which is one of the main predispositions to solve their problems (Schickedanz et al. 2000).

Observe Their Actions

Even when you’re not talking to them, and they’re not complaining about some problem or throwing a tantrum, you should still pay attention to what they do and like.

When you observe them as they’re going through their day, you’ll notice a wide array of interesting situations. You’ll get to know what occupies their attention, what triggers them the most, and how they adapt to various situations.

Then, you can foresee their reaction in different situations, so you can approach them accordingly and provide the support they need.

Time to Talk

Much like observing your child’s daily routine, talking to them strengthens your bond and mutual trust.

Parents are spending more and more time working and less time guiding their young ones in the right direction. This results in far less time spent conversing with each other and inquiring about what it is they do, like, or what friends they like the best.

No matter how busy you are, you should aim to create some time in your tight schedule for merely talking to your child. One of the best times to talk to your children is during parallel activities, such as giving them a ride to and from school or cooking together. Such times allow them to decide how much they want to share with you, thus managing any discomfort of sharing their thoughts and feelings. That makes it safer for them to share more with you then they would if you sit them down across you and ask them to talk.

Closing Thoughts

No one is perfect, and you won’t be able to react each and every time properly. However, by being self-reflective and self-aware, you’ll be able to control your reactions better and, thus, be more present and understand your child better.

Applying the steps above will make you a level-headed, caring parent that will be understanding, supportive, and a positive influence on the development of your child.

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