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Being Understanding Is A Key To Developing Healthy Children

“You just don’t understand!” Ever heard this remark from your child? Especially during the teen years, children are more likely to feel that parents don’t understand them.

Developing a sense of understanding your child should begin long before a child reaches his teens. For example, when a baby cries, do you look for a cause or do you blame the child? An understanding parent will check to see if the baby has a dirty diaper; if he is hungry; or if he is frightened or uncomfortable. Understanding the child’s needs and responding appropriately to those needs makes the child feel loved and safe.

As a child gets older, showing understanding may become more difficult. Consider this example of spilled milk.

When your child spills milk at the table, do you become angry and give him a lecture about being more careful? Do you call your child “clumsy” or “stupid?” Lectures and name-calling are likely to make the child angry or hurt rather than making him feel understood.

How can you show understanding when your child makes a mistake like spilling the milk? Simply say, “Oops. All of us spill milk sometime. Please get a towel and let’s wipe it up.” By avoiding lectures and insults, you show respect for your child’s feelings. In turn, you child will begin to respect others’ feelings. Other examples of showing understanding include:

*Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Say, “You feel strongly about this!” or “You seem to feel very concerned (hurt, upset, confused).”

*Invite more discussion. “I would like to understand how you are feeling. Will you tell me more?” Encourage your child to speak by looking at him, nodding your head and acknowledging his words by saying “Uh huh” as he speaks.

*Understand that your child’s pain is special for him. Don’t say, “I know just how you feel,” or “That’s nothing. You should hear what happened to me.” Say something like, “Ouch. I don’t know if I can even guess how terrible you must feel.”

*Use active listening. Active listening involves listening carefully and then, from time to time, summing up what your child has said. Let your child correct or add to what you have said. Examples of active listening are, “Let me see if I understand. You feel like….” Or “It sounds like you feel pretty lonely (confused, sad, etc.).”

Taking time to understand your child sends a powerful message to him. It says, “You are important to me. I care about your feelings. I want to understand how you see things.” Understanding is a powerful way to show love.

Children who know their parents and caregivers understand them are more likely to become confident and caring people.

For Release: Week of 01/27/04

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