• Dr. Jazz Killiebrew

Children Deserve to Be Heard, Especially During a Pandemic: Empathetic vs. Dismissive Listening

For too long, adults have tried to control the narrative. Often times, this is done with good intention as a way to protect and shelter the fragile hearts and minds of our precious children. However, this authoritative tactic has left generations of people voiceless and unable to advocate for themselves in a healthy way.

A global pandemic can raise an array of thoughts, emotions, and questions for adults. Imagine a child carrying that same heaviness and weight. With the news, social media, peer and adult conversation constantly circulating, kiddos can't help but have some worry, fear, anxiety, and confusion about the world around them. This is often displayed in their behavior because many children are not taught to use their words. Although our words are the gateway to our thoughts and our heart, many parents encourage their kiddos to "be quiet" because having a voice means they are being argumentative, confrontational, and disrespectful.

Children deserve to be heard without the fear of consequences or punishment. 

Do you allow your child or student to voice how they feel freely? We have fostered a culture where many kiddos have never felt heard. Often times, adults listen to children in order to respond, not to empathize or help. This type of dismissiveness makes children fearful, timid, nervous, and uncomfortable when it’s time to tell adults how they truly feel. 

Personally, I am a product of the “because I said so” era. This thought pattern left many parents in my generation trying to teach their children what to feel instead of teaching them how to feel. The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to choose empathy over dismissiveness. Just because you are an adult does not mean you are always right.

Choose Empathy:

Example 1:

Dismissive Response- "It Could be worse."

Empathetic Response- "I know that it must feel really hard to find the good in this situation. What can I do to help you?"

Example 2:

Dismissive Response- "Everything happens for a reason."

Empathetic Response-"I know that this does not make sense right now, but I am here and willing to help you make sense of this in time.

Example 3:

Dismissive Response- "Stop being negative."

Empathetic Response- "It is normal to have negative and positive outlooks on certain situations. I understand that right now this situation does not feel good, but you are loved and we will walk through this together.

 If you want to be more empathetic towards your child, please check out the following tips:

  1. First, realize that you do not have the power to tell others how to feel. We are all wired differently.

  2. It is not about you, it is about your child. Give them the grace to be an individual.

  3. Teach your child to advocate for themselves. It's okay to respectfully disagree.

  4. Spend uninterrupted time one-on-one to hear your child. This means no cellphone, no T.V., no friends over, no computer, just you and them.

  5. Be an active listener and avoid the urge to criticize. Criticism will only lead to your child shutting down. It will also damage the trust between parent and child.

  6. Ask open-ended questions to create self-reflection and to better understand once your child is finished talking.

  7. Watch your body language and tone. Your child will observe both and this will influence how they feel about continuing the conversation.

  8. Do not listen to respond or give advice. Listen to understand.

  9. Love your kiddo in the way that they best receive love. Learn their love language.

  10. Listen!

Happy Listening,


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