The need to feel heard is a very real one. There is little that is as frustrating as when we pour our hearts out, or finally put words to a quiet fear, only to receive a flippant response. We don’t feel heard when what we communicate is shut down, brushed off, downgraded, or made light of.
We may know this with children. We tend to know they need us to deeply listen. But sometimes we invest so strongly in mindful, and kind-full responses to our young ones, that we forget to do the same for the not-so-young around us. Our team, families and even prospective parents get shorter, sharper versions of us, and may not feel we’ve taken their worries seriously.
We have certain knowledge and perspectives as ECE teachers, and sometimes we think parents need to just ‘get on board’ the same style of thinking.
But don’t we want informed parents? Those who raise questions and concerns, rather than following us blindly?
We may believe in loose parts play, nature connection or freedom of movement, as examples, but if we just ‘fill’ our families with the idea that it’s the ‘right’ way, we’re promoting surface change, not shifting mindsets.
To really get on board with an idea, they need to be able to explore it - pull it apart, examine its pieces, dissect it, compare it with what they know, and voice their fears. Because here’s the thing - being a parent means being afraid sometimes. A lot is at stake after all, and the best way for our parents to sort through those fears is to be allowed to share them with us. And not feel dismissed or laughed at.
It is ok for our parents to worry about their child being cold outdoors, getting wet, interacting with animals, going out on excursions, being exposed to their allergens, being ‘ready enough’, having social difficulties, holding too tightly to routines. Whatever their worry, it’s ok, and it’s their right.
Once out in the open we can look at their concerns together, examine, inform, give examples, elaborate, without making them feel like they’re being over the top.
We won’t always solve what’s troubling them, or sway them to our thinking, and neither may even be necessary. Making sure they feel heard is the goal.
A parent may feel ‘silly’ asking for more information, but we have no right to make them feel silly. Whether we’ve heard the same 100 times or it’s something brand new, it’s not our place to roll our eyes or feel bothered by it.
In helping them learn more about why we’ve taken a certain approach, we learn more too. We strengthen our conviction, communication, and keep our compassion strong. They feel heard, and we practice truly ‘hearing’. It’s a win-win.