If you want to become a good listener there are certain traits and skills you will need to learn. Listening is a great skill to develop and it can improve all areas of your life. People love to talk and are always looking for someone to listen to them.
When listening to someone your goal should be to understand their point of view. Listen to everything they say before forming your own opinion, and remember that you do not necessarily have to agree with them. Everyone deserves, and should form, their own opinions on various topics.
Paying attention is the next trait. If you don’t pay attention you will miss out on important information. Always be aware of what is going on with the person who is speaking, and don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings.
The action of making eye contact with the person who is speaking, shows them that you are paying attention. If you start looking around you, you are giving them the impression that you are not interested, or have become bored.
Try to look at their point of view and ask yourself if they might be the person who is right.
Allow the person to finish talking. This often takes a little patience, but it can be helpful for both sides. First the person talking can vent their opinions or frustrations. Secondly it helps the listener to fully understand the issue at hand.
A good listener will also think before responding back. Again they often ask what if this person is correct in their way of thinking. People have the bad trait of speaking before thinking and this can lead to all kinds of awkward or difficult situations.
It is perfectly normal for your brain to want to respond quickly, stop yourself and think before you speak!
Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused on a person, it is normal to want to look away. If you find yourself doing this try nodding to the person or making direct eye contact with them. This signals to them that you are paying attention. If you really need to look away for a second, then muffle a cough behind your hand!
Other tips that you might want to use to show that you are paying attention include:
Saying the person’s name now and again
Using facial expressions
Using body language
If you make an effort to put these five traits into play consistently, you will become a much better listener for it.
Co-parenting is a post-divorce parenting arrangement in which both parents agree to participate in their children’s upbringing. The keyword here is “agreement” about what is in the child’s best interest where there are significant hurts, personalities, and values between those parents. Raising children requires a lot, and I mean a lot, of interactions despite getting divorced.
Because of this challenge, many parents end up parallel parenting vs. co-parenting. Co-parenting is short for cooperative parenting. Sadly, this is often not the case. Parallel parents are both working to raise their children, but they agree that they don’t agree on much. Each home will have its own set of routines, entertainment values, discipline practices, and cultural influences. This agreement to a no agreement lifestyle is a disagreeable way to parent, but parents and children often have no control over it.
Learning how to negotiate becomes an important skill when this is the case. Here are seven steps to better negotiation in co-parenting relationships:
Name the problem using an “I” statement as in “I feel…when you…and I would like to discuss how…” This format reduces defensiveness and retains a sense of power for the speaker.
Use reflective listening to convey what is understood. A divorce may involve the decision not to share the intimate connection, but it still requires understanding and validation to maintain mutual respect. Say: “So, what you are saying or asking for is…”
Brainstorm for solutions that will work for all parties. It may involve creative thinking about alternative solutions. There may be compromise from the original need.
Choose a solution to try, even if it is not your solution or your first choice.
Review who does what by putting it into writing or communicating before, during, and after the solution.
Put the solution into action and try it out to see how it works. Stay objective and open-minded. If it doesn’t work, negotiate a new solution.
Re-evaluate what is working overall, and be honest about what didn’t work and what needs to be changed. Keep the perspective that the other person is not the problem. The problem is the problem.
To complete these seven steps, parents will have to be self-aware and motivated to keep the children’s needs first. This is hard work and may involve humility that wasn’t present in the relationship before the divorce. Just because people were “terrible” partners in marriage doesn’t mean they cannot grow and be great co-parents after marriage.
Let Ron Huxley help you negotiate through your difficult situations. Schedule a session today!
Have you ever thought about working with a coach before? If you are serious about achieving your biggest goals, you should seriously consider it. Working with a coach is a great way to boost your results in almost any area of life. Having someone to teach you the ropes, or build more accountability into your life, is a beautiful way to ensure you achieve more. If you wonder if working with a coach could help you, please consider these nine benefits.
Helps You Define Your Goals Many of us have goals, but often they are loosely (or not at all) defined. A coach can help take the hopes and dreams out of your head to create concrete goals. Instead of just wanting something, you start taking tangible steps towards it.
Adds More Accountability to Your Life It’s funny, but we have a much easier time letting ourselves down than we do letting others down. Having a coach means one more person in your life you don’t want to let down. You will feel more accountable and be more likely to achieve your goals when you know someone will ask you about your progress.
Encourages You to Define Your Values Do you know what you stand for? Maybe a better question is, do you know your core values? Regardless of the question, if you struggle with the answer, a coach can help you. A coach can’t tell you your values, but they can ask you questions that will help you define them yourself.
Helps You See Yourself More Clearly A good coach will help you become more self-aware. This self-awareness will allow you to be more honest with yourself. You will know what you are good at and what you aren’t so good at doing. Self-awareness will enable you to double down on your strengths while figuring out how to deal with your weaknesses.
Assists Skill Building and Development The most obvious benefit of a coach is their ability to help us build specific skills. For example, if you are interested in becoming a better business person, it makes sense to work with a business coach who has been there and done that. You get to learn from both their experiences and their mistakes.
Offers a Safe Space to Talk About Sensitive Issues Whether you find the current world too sensitive or not, it’s a fact that we need to watch the things we say. Having a coach gives you a safe space to talk about more sensitive issues. This doesn’t mean you have a place to barf out all your emotions, but you can at least vent a bit more freely.
Encourages You To Step Out of Your Comfort Zone The comfort zone got its name from being comfortable. Once you are in it, you don’t want to get out. A good coach will coax and challenge you to step out of it. Stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while will make it easier to create positive change in your life.
Offers a Different Viewpoint When you have a coach, you have someone else to bounce ideas off. It is so easy to get caught up in your tunnel vision that you might not even consider differing opinions. A coach forces you to consider different viewpoints and opinions. It will help you become a more well-rounded individual.
Helps You Make Tough Decisions Sometimes it feels like life is nothing but a series of difficult decisions. While this isn’t always true, it has a basis in reality. How much would you like to have someone else talk to about these decisions? A good coach provides that kind of assistance.
Coaching Action Steps:
Take some time to think about different areas of your life that could use a boost. Write these down in a list.
Carefully consider the list from the last step to figure out if a coach, mentor, or teacher could help you in any of these areas.
Choose the area of your life that could most use a coach, and start researching coaching options. If you find a fit right for you, take a chance and reach out.
Join me, September 23rd, from 12:15 pm to 1 pm (Pacific Standard Time) for the latest FamilyHealer.TV “Conversations”: This weeks topic is how to “Break the Cycle of Fear and Worry in Children”.
This is an education and supportive Zoom event. Parents and professionals will not want to miss this one! In this conversation, we will look at why children have anxiety, how to increase your child’s Emotional IQ, what parents can say to comfort their children, and how to help children become Worry Warriors and Fear Fighters!
This Conversations Show is part of our training course “Big Worries” at FamilyHealer.tv.
*The training portion will be recorded. Q and A is private.
Meeting ID: 865 6823 2529 Passcode: 929523 One tap mobile +16699006833,,86568232529#,,,,*929523# US (San Jose) +13462487799,,86568232529#,,,,*929523# US (Houston)
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Join me Thursday, September 16 at 12:15 pm (PST) for this live zoom event! We will be discussing practical parenting tools for adoptive parents. This is a 45 minute, interactive, seminar for adoptive parents and the professionals who work with them…and best of all it is FREE!
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Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Parents use it, just like their children. However, on average, teenagers are the ones who spend the most time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and similar platforms. These platforms confuse and frighten parents!
According to the report, Common Sense Media, teens spend about 9 hours on entertainment media, including social media, games, and TV, every day.
This means that teenagers spent more time with media and technology than with parents, school work, or physical activities.
Parents probably ask themselves: “Will my child become addicted to video games? Will this ruin their ability to think for themselves? What happens if my child is cyberbullied or becomes one? Could an online predator harm my child? Will continual screen use diminish their ability to know how to socialize normally?”
As a Child and Family Therapist, I believe parents are right to ask these questions. The issue is how to get to the answers!
Our current world makes getting answers challenging. Before the pandemic, many parents banned social media, screen use, and cell phone ownership from children, including their teenagers. After the pandemic, many children were isolated from peers without any possible way to connect. Parents had no choice but to let their children go online to stem the growing anxiety and depression their children were experiencing from the isolation. During the pandemic, children were doing school online, but many parents discovered they were “multitasking” and playing games online or talking to friends via social media while participating in school. Being online, for school or social connection, is now a regular part of our lives. It isn’t going away anytime soon.
Why are we concerned? Studies show that social media and online video games reduce our effectiveness in understanding human emotion and create a barrier to communicating deeply. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. The more teens spend online, the more shallow their communication and empathy skills could be. The teen years is a crucial time for skills that will sustain them in adulthood and the right mix requires real face-to-face interaction along with screen time.
Our brains use “mirror neurons” to understand others’ perspectives and emotions through an inner imitation of other people’s actions. These special neurons reproduce emotions and actions in ourselves. This can be outside of our awareness and contributes to “gut reactions” and inform us on knowing right from wrong. It is the key to developing empathy and compassion as our neurons mirror the pain witnessed in other people. When they feel it we feel it too.
Perhaps this is why cyberbullying has become such a problem with preteens and teenagers? Maybe they cannot feel the pain and suffering of the peers they are tormenting. Without that feedback loop, they lose the natural conscience we need in social situations. Mirror neurons are also a prime component of learning, and this might account for the massive drop in school grades and homework performance. There is more to learning than facts and information. The joy of learning and the social connections that physical schools provide are a necessary part of a teens social emotional growth.
Of course, not all teens are engaged in cyberbullying or looking at inappropriate content. Many really just want to have fun and connect with peers. Teens can learn valuable things online. Additionally, many teens have found groups that support and encourage them through unique challenges in life situations, like mental health or artistic/cultural pursuits. This can’t always be found in our local community. Balance is needed and parents may need to help teens find the good and minimize the bad.
Here are some tips to help you learn more about your teen’s social media interactions and help them if necessary:
Give yourself permission, as the parent, to ask your child about concerns they have or problems they have experienced. Maybe your teen never tells you anything because you never ask, or perhaps you ask in an anxious and condemning way. Don’t assume wrongdoing but don’t be in denial either.
If your teen gives you some pushback, don’t get offended when asked about social media use. These are normal human defenses. Just reassure them that you don’t believe they are doing something wrong but that you are curious and want to know more about social media and how it all works. Be curious and open-minded.
Get on social media yourself and learn how it works. Don’t depend on your teen to tell you everything or tell the right things. You can discover it yourself. I recommend parents friend or link to your child on various social media platforms – even though if they might think it weird. If they know you are online too and can see their content, they might think twice before posting something inappropriate. Sometimes being POTS (parent over the shoulder) has its benefits.
Parenting teens on social media might feel like the old adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and that is exactly what this is…You can’t beat them, so you better join them in the online world!
If you have concerns about what your child is doing or they actively resist you finding out what they are posting or doing or who their friends are, that could be a red flag to pay attention to. Don’t go all “hair on fire” on them. Just note your concern and firmly investigate further. Don’t let a their resistance deter you. Ask questions of them, their friends, their friend’s parents, and look at their media on their devices when they sit them down. Yeah, they will get annoyed. They will live.
I tell parents, who have real concerns about their children’s social media use, insist on having all passwords, account names and even stalk them online! Sounds harsh? It is better to have an irritated teen than an exploited one or one in deep trouble with the school or law. Even the most innocent child can get caught up in things way beyond their developmental capacity to deal with…I have seen it happen many times over. Many teens have hidden accounts, back up phone in case you take theirs, borrow their friends phone, etc.
You are allowed to remove all devices if needed. They may have been gifts to your child, but that gift was intended to be used correctly and safely. As a side note, many teens who lose their devices start finding more outside entertainment or real world social interactions to engage in…they frequently come out of their rooms and talk to parents. Wow, so strange, but true.
Because of this fact, take a “social media fast” for the whole family from time to time. Ban all social media and screen use for a day or a weekend. Provide lots of fun alternatives and food. Food is always helpful! Once you get past the grumbling, the home atmosphere might become more positive.
Don’t focus so much on controlling the child as managing the media. Shaming and condemning don’t get positive results, and children can seek revenge. Be respectful but firm, loving but insistent. Tell them you are removing the devices because THEY are causing too many problems or distractions. You just want to help the ENTIRE family find a better focus and social interaction, not just the teenager, right?
Make discussions about the world and its problem a regular thing. Teenagers want and need support, and they don’t have adult wisdom and experience to manage life’s difficulties. You have to open the space to have these conversations. It may be awkward at first, but making them a normal car-ride conversation or over an after-school snack can open your child up to share their fears, anxiety, and needs.
Parents of teens cannot effectively use control to manage them. You have to use influence if you want to have a lasting effect. Your goal for this developmental stage is to train them for adulthood. It’s only a few years away. If you tell them what to do all the time versus helping them with the best solution and sometimes experience the negative consequences of life, they won’t be ready.
Parenting a teen is like when your child learned to walk. You couldn’t catch them every time but had to let them stumble and fall on occasions. You protected them against any serious threats (sharp objects, going into the street), but you cautiously walked alongside, encouraging and cheering on their successful steps until walking was natural. You can do this for social media and screen use too. Walk alongside them. Protect but don’t smother them. Steer them in the right direction and remove them from obvious dangerous situations. Bring a balance of off-screen activities to the family. And in the end, they will protect themselves, and be better human beings.
A common complaint of couples and families is poor communication. We have to communicate our needs, wants, and dreams. Trauma and pain can shut communication down or result in explosive words and feelings that damages our relationships. Here is a simple tool to help you build better communication skills. Use the acronym BRIEF to start improving your ability to connect today.
B = Be calm and concise. Request a good time to talk. Don’t discuss more than one thing at a time. “I would like to talk about what happened this morning. When would be good time to talk?”
R = Recognize the other persons situation. See to understand be being understood. For example:
“I realize you were busy trying to get ready for work and worried about your meeting today when…”
I = Use “I Messages.” “You messages” create defensiveness. I messages create safety that allows you to be heard and known. For example:
“I feel hurt and ashamed when you call me ugly names and slam the door.”
E = Express your wants and needs. Families can develop rules that wants and needs are not allowed. Complete inner lifes can be shut down by angry, abusive parents. For example:
“…and I need you be respectful towards me and not run away when we talk.”
F = Focus on a solution that will benefit both of you. This communication skill is not just for me. It creates a win/win opportunity for both parties. For example:
“I will TRY not to talk to you in the morning when you are on the way out of work or I would like to start seeing a marriage counselor together.”
Conflictual coparenting acts like it is a form of competition but that is an illusion. High levels of conflict has no winners, only losers! Parents fight to one up each other or get revenge for past hurts and this includes the children.
Most mediators, myself included, want parents to put the “best interests of the child” first but this is difficult for parents to do when consumed by anger and resentments. The costs are high, and not just financially with on-going court costs. The emotional costs are high for everyone. Research is clear that children who go through long-term, conflictual divorce, are negatively impacted. There is the risk that children will have severe mental health issues into adulthood.
The legal definition of the “best interests of the child” is about who the child belongs to…the psychological definition of the “best interests of the child” is who belongs to the child. There is a big difference between these two definitions but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive of each other. Setting boundaries, using strength-based language, and keeping the needs of the child paramount will help a true cooperative parenting process.
The best way for parents to reduce conflict is to learn to manage themselves. Keeping the focus on personal healing and not on how the other parent should act or be. Managing ourselves is the only guarantee that we can have of making the coparenting relationship healthy.
Get more support and help with your coparenting conflict with a session with Ron Huxley today.
Parental alienation is a controversial diagnosis but a common concern in modern-day divorce. Psychology and legal professions disagree on using the term Parental Alienation. Still, both fields recognize the harm that parents can do to one another and their children in a high-conflict divorce.
What is parental alienation, and why is it so controversial? According to Wikipedia, parental alienation “describes a process through which a child becomes estranged from a parent due to the psychological manipulation of another parent. The child’s estrangement may manifest itself as fear, disrespect, or hostility toward the distant parent and may extend to additional relatives or parties.”
The controversy involves whether this action is a form of child abuse, family violence, or a criminal act. It should not be used as a formal diagnosis and may not be allowable in a legal court battle. However, it is useful to know the behavioral characteristics of a parent or child to navigate this painful reality of modern-day divorce.
“The theory of parental alienation has been asserted within legal proceedings as a basis for awarding custody to a parent who alleges estrangement, or to modify custody in favor of that parent. Courts have generally rejected parental alienation as a valid scientific theory. Still, some courts have allowed the concept to be argued as relevant to determining the child’s best interest when making a custody determination. Legal professionals recognize that alienating behaviors are common in child custody cases, but are cautious about accepting the concept of parental alienation.” (Wikipedia)
Parental alienation places the child in a “loyalty bind” where they must choose between parents. To resolve this inner conflict, they will start to prefer one parent over the other. They may refuse to go with the non-preferred parents when it is their time for custody, and they may make false claims or accusations against the non-preferred parent.
One reason for alienation and loyalty binds is to view what is in the “best interest” from a legal vs. a psychological perspective. From a legal view, child custody is determined by “who the child belongs to” vs. a psychological view of “who belongs to the child.”
This is not merely semantics. Many people could belong to the child’s emotional security. The legal viewpoint is rigid and creates one winner and multiple losers in the custody situation.
In high-conflict divorce situations where alienation may occur, all family members can engage professional support and guidance. Family therapists and mediators can be essential to reduce estrangement and manipulation and set a straightforward course of behaviors to prevent harm to children and their parents.
There is some interesting research on the link between depressed dads and its effects on their children. This supports much of the posts I have written on the importance of father/child bond. The research is summarized by Child-Psych.org at http://bit.ly/mvo6nu: “The current study used a nationally representative sample of fathers of one year-olds, 1,746 dads in total.
The men answered questions in four different areas: interactive play (e.g., peek-a-boo), speech and language interactions, reading to the child, and spanking. Whether or not the fathers had talked with their child’s pediatrician during the past year was also assessed. Seven percent of the fathers in the study reported being depressed during the past year. Seventy-seven percent of these dads also had spoken with the pediatrician over the past year… there were no differences between fathers that were not depressed and those that were in their reports of playing interactive games and singing songs/nursery rhymes with their children. Depressed dads were less likely to read to their one year-olds and much more likely to spank them.”
Conclusions of this study focused on the relationship between a fathers well-being and the child emotional and academic abilities later in life. As you might expect, the higher the depression in dad, the lower the functioning of the child. In addition, there is a connection between how aggressive dads were in their discipline. A higher percentage of dads spanked or acted out of anger with their children. Why do I keep harping on this topic? I want dads to be aware of and accept how vital there role is in the life of their children. I want others (moms and society in general) to be more mindful of the need to educate and support dads in this role. As men, we don’t get the same amount of formal or informal training to be parents as moms. More focus is needed for men to rise to the challenge of parenting.