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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Donovan

The Importance of 'Really' Hearing a Child

We all listen to our children, it is after all one of the great pleasures in our lives, but do we always hear what they are really trying to convey? I wonder how many times we actually miss the hidden subtleties and nuances that are buried; albeit unconsciously, in the conversations they have with us.

Of course I’m not saying each and every time our children talk with us, they have something deep and unbearable they need to get across to us but lack the vocabulary or, at times courage to do so. It’s reasonable and almost certainly correct to assume that most children are emotionally intact enough and self-aware to feel secure in sharing their feelings and experiences with you, their parents. However, many are not and it’s these children that may benefit from being heard on a deeper level by a trained professional.

What then prevents us from hearing our children in the first place? Well, the answer to this is multifaceted and impossible to address in a short blog, but in the main, it’s connected with our own frame of reference. That’s to say, our own life experiences that have coloured the lens in which we view or interpret the dynamics around us. We can, all too often, not want to hear, or be unable to hear our children’s deepest fears or anxieties because they touch us at levels that are too painful, on an unconscious level. Indeed this same unconscious drive may even lead some parents to be reluctant to invest in counselling for their child, where it could be beneficial, because they feel it is some kind of judgement on their parenting skills. It really is not.

A child that is not ‘heard’ can repress and internalise anxieties taking them through into adolescence and possibly adulthood, causing longer term harm to their mental wellbeing. More worrying though, is that in certain cases, children can resort to more extreme behaviour in their present lives. Behaviour such as; acting out, relationship sabotage, withdrawal, isolation, self-harm and in the most extreme cases, suicide.

A good child counsellor is trained to tune into a child at a very deep level, picking up on much more than just words, which all too often can be absent. Rather, children communicate through their play, with their body language and by using metaphor. It is having the ability to read all of these elements at once that places a good child counsellor in the unique position of being able to hear all the child wants to say. It is at this point a child can truly feel heard and validated, bringing them some resolution and enabling them to move forward.

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