Listening is a vital life skill that should be taught early. In fact more of us would benefit from developing our listening skills more. The first step is to be able to repeat the speaker’s words with a degree of understanding. They should not merely parrot words of others but demonstrate some reflective thought about what has been said.. Active listening to parents, peers and siblings helps them communicate on a deep level that will likewise transfer over to their communication with the Lord. In a nutshell, active listening involves listening to the speaker and reflecting back to them their thoughts and feelings to make sure you have understanding. You’ll have to model this a few times to children.
Joey: You were late picking me up from baseball. I was the last kid there.
Mom: It must have been pretty scary being all by yourself.
Joey: Yeah. I thought you would never come.
Mom: I’ll try harder to be on time next time. I’ll ask Jesus to help me. Do you think you can ask Jesus anything, Joey?
Joey: Yes. I can pray when I am alone; after all, Coach Roberts was right there, too.
Let’s notice some steps this mom took. She did not invalidate Joey’s feelings by telling him Coach Roberts was there nor by explaining away her lateness. She acknowledges his feelings and does not react to his agitation. Being an adult means taking the high road and not expecting our children to make us feel good about our choices. This mom also turns the child back to Jesus and gets him to reason on his own. Since he feels validated, he is eventually able to reason he really was not alone. Coach Roberts was right there.
Children tend to aggrandize everything, and had Joey not acknowledged Coach Roberts, his distorted view of reality would become common place. This mom also had to be at a place of peace where she does not react to Joey’s accusation. A soft answer turns away wrath. Later, mom could talk to Joey about how to speak to someone even in crisis. Children should be taught respect even when they are upset, but children, like us, first need to be validated before corrected.
Practice active listening. It is imperative to show empathy with children when listening. Children still have an element of fantasy in their thoughts, and you can use that to show you want the best for your child, even when you cannot give it. Listen without the temptation to give one of those lectures that often go in one ear and out the other. Do you remember any childhood lectures? I don’t. I do remember how I felt and how angry my parents were. Only by listening and getting to the heart of the issue will you be sure to strike a chord with your child.
Children need to be emotionally secure before we can tell them about the love of God. Children need attention. Stop. Look at your child in the eye. Touch them. Even when our children seem to push us away, we need to cuddle them. Our sons might not appreciate a hug, but we can rustle their hair, give approving touches along with words of affirmation.
Our actions and emotions must match. We cannot tell our children we love them and at the same time be on the telephone when they come in from school. Children remember things emotionally. Our children also need affirmation, approval, affection, and a sense of belonging.
Children learn most by what we do. We have an intentional plan for our children. It is primarily our responsibility to nurture a love of God in our children so that they hunger after God.
It happened again today. We were coming home from church and I was relaying a story to Derek when suddenly, I couldn’t remember a parishioner’s name—and not just any parishioner-- but a woman I had counseled just two months ago. As we pulled into JFK airport, the woman’s first and last name came barreling to my brain faster than a Black Friday shopper in the aisle with the last 70 percent off flat screen tv.
Of course, I know the reason the name came back to me so quickly was because I was relaxed and not thinking about it. But, I’ll be honest with you: it bothers me more than I care to admit. I pride myself on my impeccable memory and often I can quote (generally correctly) long passages from almost any book I have read. Further, it bugs me because I refuse to accept a momentarily lapse of memory is normal and to be expected. It is not like I am in denial though, like when I plucked out my first grey hair with the idealist hope that another one would not grow in its place. Don’t worry, this is not another blog on aging. In fact, I don’t feel old.
Friends and foes alike, tell me I don’t look my age. Of course, it bothers me a bit when folks say I don’t look my age when they don’t know my age. But, that’s another story.
Nearly, everyone has trouble remembering something at least once in their lives. Most times, we will just employ some mnemonic to deal with it and move on. However, when working with the elderly, whom need to recall details of a story for their legacy life book, it gets a bit trickier. I have found asking open-ended questions, along with associations, helps with memory recall. For instance, I used to say, when conducting an interview, tell me about your elementary school. Now, I ask, what was the favorite part of the playground at your elementary school? Knowing that many of our childhood memories stem from play helps me to refocus the question to illicit a better response. Of course, I will deviant from one way of questioning at any time to get a richer interview. In fact, one of my secrets for getting such rich detail is the way I interview. Asking the right questions will illicit the right response.
Not surprising, research has shown that when recalling old memories association works best. I will spare you the scientific details. Suffice to say, if you are able to recall a small detail, such as a slide in the playground, you will likely be able to recall the memory-at- large. Dementia clients are perhaps the hardest to work with because at times their associations don’t fit in with present day reality. Still, even early Alzheimer patients can give meaningful interviews, once you help them make connections. I once saw an 80-year-old gentleman’s face light up as I employed associative questioning to get him to recall nearly a neighbor.s house when he was in grade school. I simply focused on the Lionel train he told me he used to play with his neighbors.
Someone once said our memories are our personal movies. It is, therefore, essential that we hold onto our memories—no matter how old we are. This can be easily done if we relax and take the time to make associations. Thus, had I recalled a simple detail of the counseling session, I might have remembered the parishioners’ name sooner. Instead, it was likely me relaxing that allowed my subconscious to retrieve the name. However, when simply relaxing does not seem to work with elderly relatives, try associations and details. Like the slide or the Lionel train, find a small detail to focus on that will illicit an emotional response that will trigger memories. Triggering memories is important at any age. The ramblings we tolerate today may well be the wisdom we need tomorrow. Let's cultivate our memories.
Cheryl Carter is the CEO of Legacy Treasures. She composes legacy life books, ethical wills and tribute books for her clients. She has recently developed a do-it-yourself legacy kit for individuals to capture the meaningful moments of their loved ones’ lives. Visit themeaningfulmoment.com for further information.