Back to school, starting school for the first time or perhaps a new school? Listening to other parents this all means different things to different people. Some are sad the balmy summer days are over, going to bed later, playing and having fun. Some are delighted to not be spending money entertaining children, some pleased the isolation the summer can bring is over. And others wait in trepidation of the spending hours in the car delivering children to after school activities.
I often meet parents at the beginning of the school year who are looking to talk about their child’s experience of school – the friends, the study, the homework, the sitting for long periods of time and yard time. Of course the natural thing that parents want to do is to intervene, come up with a plan to make things better for their child. But what if parents can’t? What if parents can support children to experience difficult emotions and help them feel safe within it?
What is helpful for children is that parents listen and that parents create a space where we are emotionally available to hear their experience of being a child. This might mean they are a few minutes late for school one day, miss an after school activity or stay up a little later than the usual bedtime. And when a parent listens, listening with empathy is enough. Phrases like “I am sorry you are feeling like that” or “I am sorry that you are in this situation”. Empathy shows a person understands, and if you don’t understand then ask. We don’t have to have the answers.
Listening with empathy happens when a parent is able to be present within themselves. Listen to your own stresses (of which there are many being a parent!), recognise they are there and manage them. Take time for you and your needs. This will make you be able to hear those of your children.