Learning to Listen
One of the most important skills that contributes to feelings of closeness and support in a family is the ability to communicate, especially when communicating with someone who has AD/HD. Studies show that listening makes up a major part of all types of communication. To listen well takes concentration and is a skill that improves with practice. Listening is especially important with children because they do not have as much experience as adults in identifying or talking about their feelings. Helping them learn how to communicate feelings constructively contributes to their ability to deal with feelings without “acting them out.”
There are a couple things I do as a psychologist to improve my ability to listen and convey to the other person that I understand them. First, I reflect back to them what I think they are saying to me. This means that I repeat what they just said to me but with slightly different words. I do this to let them know that I am listening and to give them a chance to correct any misunderstanding. Second, I try to reflect back the feelings that the person may have. For example, “Sounds like you had a really tough time,” or “You look angry.” Other times I ask questions to encourage them to say more. How did you feel when that happened? What did you say then? Non-verbal feedback is also important to show that you are paying attention, like nodding your head, smiling, and making eye contact.
Listening is a great way to keep the lines of communication open. Children who feel listened to by their parents are more likely to listen to their parents. Their self-esteem is higher and they are more likely to respect themselves and others, too. More often, the act of listening and communicating that you understand does more to diffuse a difficult situation than quickly trying to smooth it over. Sometimes a person just needs understanding and empathy.