How can I practise active listening?

When your child feels listened to, they know that you are making a genuine effort to understand them. Active listening means concentrating on what is being said. It can help two people understand each other better and can strengthen relationships.

Concentrate on what your child is saying

Hearing is not listening. You should stop what you’re doing. Crouch down to your child’s level, if you need to. Make eye contact with them. You want to show your child that they have your full attention.

Avoid interrupting them

Let your child finish their sentences at their own pace. Try not to make judgments based on only half a statement. It may be hard for them to find the correct words to use. Give them the time to express themselves. Don’t try to finish their sentences for them. This could make them feel frustrated and misunderstood.

Repeat back to your child what they said

Once your child has finished speaking, tell them what you’ve understood. It doesn’t need to be the exact words. You can add details and suggest an emotion that they may be feeling. If you’ve got it right, your child will agree with you.

Don't worry about naming the wrong emotion

If you’re not clear whether your child is sad or angry or scared, it’s OK to guess. Your child may not know the correct word but you’ll be able to work it out together. Often, a child or teen will correct you if they think you’ve got it wrong.

We also have advice on talking about difficult topics with your child. 

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

More on talking about feelings

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