By Marnita Coleman
Special to the AFRO

With so much going on in the world that affects our children, it is important for them to feel that they have a safe place to air their true feelings. In their eyes the little things are gigantic. As parents, we can be a haven of refuge when we master the art of listening.  Here are five battle-tested keys that I have personally, used to protect their feelings.

1956: This AFRO archive shows members of the Alumni of the Friendly Neighborhood House in Newark presenting toys and other gifts to a group of happy children.

  1. Allow your child to vent without offering advice.  At this stage, they don’t want your opinion or advice, they just want to be heard, so listen. And don’t listen to respond, but listen to truly hear your child’s perspective. Out of their mouths flow the issues of their heart, so actively listening gives parents insight into exactly what your child is feeling.  
  2. Refrain from judgement or criticism. There is a time and place for everything. Whether your child is right or wrong is not the issue here. If you judge or criticize them, they may close the door to future communications.
  3. Reassure your child that you’re listening. As you’re listening, use nonverbal communication such as nodding your head, making eye contact, or a gentle touch to let them know that you are engaged. Knowing that you are listening will make them feel like their thoughts are of value to you. Everyone wants to be heard, even you. 
  4. Recite what you hear. Carefully reiterate what you heard your child say. If you are uncertain whether you got it right, simply ask a question like, “Am I saying that correctly?” Your child won’t mind your question, and they will appreciate your effort to understand.
  5. Allow your child to empty out. Before moving to another subject, wait patiently for your child to change the conversation. Be quiet and allow for a minute of silence in honor of the intimate moment that you both just shared.  

This is a real “W” for parents! Be assured that the lines of communication are open with no roadblocks. By refusing to judge or criticize your child, you can be trusted with their emotional scars. Keep these keys in your treasure box as you look forward to more conversations and developing a deeper relationship with your child. Way to go!

Marnita Coleman is an author and host of The Marnita Show, a parenting show heard daily across the globe.  For more parenting, log onto

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