Actively listening to children is an important skill to practice during the COVID lockdown and restrictions. For those of us who are juggling between working from home, childcare, home schooling and more, it is easy to feel the pressure to complete as much as we were prior to COVID-19.

The good news is you are not alone. There are many of us who are experiencing this currently and finding ways to create a ‘COVID norm’ within our homes. We have rediscovered the importance of family time and the value it brings to our lives.

As an educator, part of our embedded practice is to get down at the child’s level and really listen to what they are trying to communicate. Children thrive with structure and routine and we all know what happens when even the slightest change has taken place in their routine. On top of that, throw in a lockdown and having to juggle taking a conference call while your child is poking you in the side for attention. Instead of stopping what we are doing and taking ourselves off auto pilot we brush the child away.

More so now than ever, our children have needed their primary caregivers (parents/ guardians) to be present and available potentially being the only social and emotional interaction they are experiencing during lockdown. Young children don’t have the ability to regulate their emotions and tell us how they are feeling or be able to verbally communicate what that emotion is. This is where parents and guardians can begin teaching their children about their emotions at home by being present and actively listening.

Active listening refers to the pattern of listening that keeps you engaged in a conversation. For children this is a crucial first step to recognising and learning emotional regulation.

Here are some steps to help you start actively listening to your child:

  • Stop what you are doing when your child comes to you and give them your full attention.
  • Always get down to your child’s level and make full eye contact with your child while speaking with them.
  • Make sure your child is calm, if they aren’t, give them the space to calm down first before proceeding to talking with them about what they are feeling.
  • Repeat back to your child what you have observed and what you understand to be their feelings. As you continue to repeat this step, your child will start to recognise the emotion and learn to call the feeling by name.

It is easy to lose time when working from home. The days roll into one and there’s a push for us to just keep going, knowing we had interruptions throughout the day. Remember, it is important to take your breaks not just for yourself but for your children as well. It helps break up the day and allows you time to reboot before continuing. Those breaks will allow you time to stop, breath and listen and can be used as part of the daily routine so that your child is confident that they will get the time with you without having to ask for it.