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How to Help Kids Develop a Sense of Being Heard and Valued

Feeling empowered and in control of your life is important for kids’ development. Giving children a sense of autonomy over their day-to-day lives and providing the opportunity to be heard and valued are key steps to helping them build the self-confidence they need to cope with difficult choices and situations. Here is a guide on how to get started on giving kids control over their own lives.

Create an Open and Safe Environment

Creating a space where children feel safe to communicate and express themselves is key. Make sure to provide kids with an atmosphere that is respectful of all opinions and ideas, no matter how trivial or silly they might seem. This helps promote trust and build resilience for when bigger issues come up. Additionally, be open to discussion and be willing to take their ideas into consideration. Doing so can show solidarity and encourage healthy dialogue.

Listen Without Judgment

Being judgmental—even with well-intentioned advice—doesn’t lead to meaningful communication; in fact, it can suffocate it. Before jumping into the conversation, take a few moments to pause and acknowledge what they’re feeling without offering advice or possible solutions. Too often adults come with fixed ideas of how things should be done instead of truly listening with an open mind. Instead, actively listen by repeating back and summarizing their points to show them you were not just being polite but actually taking the time to understand them and validate what they have said.

Acknowledge Feelings without Dismissing Them

Showing kids that you are listening and understanding their feelings is important in helping them to feel heard and valued. Instead of saying, “Don’t be upset,” or “That wasn’t so bad,” Acknowledge the emotion without making it wrong. For example, you can say, “It sounds like this was really hard for you – I understand how you feel.” This lets the child know that they can express their feelings without judgment or criticism and gives them a sense of being understood.

Help Kids Explain What’s Wrong or How They’re Feeling

It’s important to create an environment wherein kids feel empowered over their emotions and thoughts. This involves helping them recognize situations where they are feeling unheard, disempowered, or frustrated. Encourage children to explain what’s wrong or how they’re feeling. Doing this can create the opportunity for dialogue which allows the other person involved in the situation to better understand where they are coming from and hopefully work to resolve it.

Find Positive Ways for Kids to Express Their Needs and Wants

Helping kids feel heard involves finding positive ways for them to express their needs and wants. Educate kids on how to articulate their feelings in an effective manner. Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy behavior and reward children who use their words instead of acting out in a difficult situation. Encourage open dialogue by establishing mutual respect and showing interest in what they’re saying.

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