Let the Children Be Heard: Advice on Communicating with Children

I’m always looking for a way to strengthen my relationships with young people. More than anyone in society, children are vulnerable. They need love and support to thrive. They need to be listened to and heard to grow confident in their abilities. I work to give them everything they need. Everything I never had as a child—a protectress, an advocate, a joyful ally. I’m not afraid to be fierce for them, to stand up for their rights and defend them against unjust behavior. I would rather take the burden of pain on for myself than let them face a brutal world alone.

Too many children fall prey to the very people who are entrusted with their care. Whether these children are athletes, students or family, we owe them a debt if they have been harmed under our care. Predators get away with abuse because children  fear that they won’t be listened to or heard, and that no one will intervene on their behalf. Sadly, there is endless evidence of predation against innocent children. The Me Too movement draws attention to the numerous examples of professional women encountering sexual abuse and harassment, or worse, in the workplace. Yet movements like Me Too should ideally harness the energy of visibility to prevent further attacks on women and children. This is an important moment in history to work toward accountability in our society. Without individual accountability, we cannot change the outcomes and experiences of women or children, which we are now the focus national attention. It is simply not enough to look backward. We must demand accountability in the present moment as much as we seek accountability for past deeds.

Christina Xu Mei Mei Mixed Media Painting-1.jpg
“Mei Mei” painting by Christina Xu for Living Artist Project

The problem of abuse is more real than some of us care to admit. Children train in school to survive lethal gun attacks. They make few decisions regarding their own futures, and like women, are seldom believed. In that context, the least we can do is let them know that adults hear and respect their needs, their wants and their wishes—that even their dreams are sacred. Children deserve to have physical, emotional and psychological support and protection, and not solely after the fact.

It is up to women like me to act up on the behalf of children, to make sure history does not repeat itself. It is up to adults—every teacher, parent, uncle and grandparent, who cares to take up the slack. We must listen to children before there is a problem. We must be a person that a child will turn to for help and support. We have to give them grounds for the courage to speak up and tell the truth. We have to interrupt the violence and abuse perpetrated on others and ourselves as children witness. We can model behavior as we protect the future generation. No one gets a pass. We are all accountable. You may be asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

We can start by simply reading a book that gives us real, practical tools for working with and listening to young people. Below you will find a few gems gleaned from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Start here, and read their treasure to learn more about how to be an ally to young people.

The following are excerpts from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

4 Ways to Help a Child with Their Feelings:

1. Listen quietly and attentively. 2. Acknowledge and accept their feelings with a word or sound. 3.Give their feelings a name. 4.Give them their wishes in fantasy form.

 

5 Steps to Engage a Child’s Cooperation:

1. Describe what you see or describe the problem. 2. Give information. 3. Say it with a word. 4. Describe what you feel. 5. Write a note.

 

6 Ways to Encourage Autonomy:

1. Let children make choices. 2. Show respect for a child’s struggle. 3. Don’t ask too many questions. 4. Don’t rush to answer questions. 5. Encourage them to use sources outside the home. (**Topic dependent. Use wisdom.) 6. Don’t take away hope.

 

Instead of Saying “N0”: 

Give the facts. Accept their feelings. Describe the problem.  Give yourself time to think.

 

Use Praise to Raise Self-Esteem:

Describe what you see without judgment. Describe your feelings in response to behavior. Sum up the child’s praiseworthy behavior in one word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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