A new school year is upon us and while we were hoping to put the pandemic in our rearview mirror, that isn’t the case. The continued uncertainty causes anxiety and stress levels to rise and concentration and productivity levels to go down. One way to combat this is to help your child(ren) or student(s) practice mindful listening.
Mindfulness practices increase our ability to regulate emotions and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness allows us to focus our attention and increases our ability to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment.There are many benefits gained from developing a practice of mindfulness including self-control, improved concentration, tolerance, flexible thinking, and the ability to treat others and yourself with compassion and kindness.
Mindful listening means giving full attention to the speaker and trying to understand the complete message being communicated. The ability to listen mindfully strengthens our attention and brings us completely into the present moment. It also helps develop empathy for others. In school, students who mindfully listen can follow directions more accurately, helping to eliminate errors and improve time management. Children who are able to actively listen to their classmates and teachers are better equipped to compromise and negotiate their conflicts independently.
Developing Good Listening Skills
We don’t want to teach students to pretend they are listening. Some children can nod their heads and verbally agree at the right time. They can track their teacher as he or she walks across the room. But are they really listening? Are they thinking of something else or planning what they want to say? Children and adults need to remove distractions such as cellphones, computers, or TV and focus their attention on the speaker. Children should be reminded to refocus their attention on the speaker should their thoughts begin to wander. Students can learn to dismiss their random thoughts and biases and concentrate on what is being said, even if they find it boring.
It’s also important to reinforce good manners. Remind children (or adults) not to interrupt. When a person interrupts, it sends the message that they don’t care about another’s opinions, feelings, or ideas. Children must wait for the speaker to pause before asking a question or making a comment, even if it is simply to agree with the speaker.
Parents and teachers can find several online resources, which will provide activities and information on developing mindful listening skills. Reading stories, playing games, having your child repeat directions back to you are all great ways to build their listening skills. However, the best way to teach mindful listening is to model being a mindful listener yourself!