I heard a very touching story in one of my classes recently. We were talking about the value of listening to our children’s strong emotions, and I asked if anyone had been listened to in that way as a young child. One woman raised her hand and said, “Yes. One time.” She had been raised by her single mother who was a school teacher. She was the oldest of three and very involved in taking care of her younger siblings and making sure everything went well. They struggled a lot and were often short of money.
At one point she said she was having a particularly hard time so her mother sent the younger siblings over to a neighbor’s house, then took her out to the garage and said, “Okay, let me hear it.” Her mom just listened while she got to yell and cry and scream about how hard it was and that it wasn’t fair. She had never gotten to really let it all out like that. She knew that her mom really wanted to hear it, since she had sent the younger ones next door so that she could have time just with her. She told her, “I know this sucks, sweetie. I wish it were different.” She didn’t try to make her feel any different or tell her it wasn’t so bad. She just listened.
The woman said it made all the difference in the world to her. It seemed as if she could carry on. Just because she knew her mom was on her side that way.
What I think is interesting is that even though she didn’t get listened to many times in that way, she still really understood how important it is for her to listen to her children when they are struggling. That one experience really made a difference for her. It’s such a good reminder to me when I think of all the times when I’ve felt badly because I just didn’t have it in me to give my children the attention I would have liked to, or just couldn’t listen.
-Join Certified Instructor Kirsten Nottleson in her next online parenting class, Building Emotional Understanding.