Communication is not always conversation…
When we consider communication, we often immediately think about speaking. We may then consider body language but listening may well be a later consideration or may not feature at all.
Listening is one half of the communication but when we listen we often don’t truly hear and process what the other person is saying. Instead we may be distracted by something else in our thoughts, filtering what the other person is saying through our own judgements or often even formulating our own response while the speaker is still talking.
Our children are expert at picking up on when we are preoccupied or prejudging what they are telling us. They may curtail what they tell us or refrain from telling us anything if they feel that they will be judged or lectured in any way.
Communication is also not always conversation. Some things do not need a response or a reaction, they do not need to be solved or even dissected, they just need to be heard. Sometimes just saying something out loud allows the speaker the opportunity to process what they are thinking or the space to find their own answer, rather than have the listener jump in and tell them what to do.
Our young people may take a while to find the language they want to use to express themselves and they may take a little longer, this may leave some quiet pauses. As parents we may feel that we need to jump in and comment, reinforce or say what we think. If we can hold back and allow the silence, we can allow our young person to continue to explore their own thoughts.
When we can listen with complete attention, without allowing our preconceptions and judgements to cloud our understanding and enable our child to explore and express their thoughts uninterrupted with just space to just organise their thoughts into words, we can set up honest, meaningful and open communication with our young person.