Children want to be seen and heard. They long for connection with their parent or caretaker. They want to know they are important, loved, and valued.
What does it mean to “be seen and heard”? It means to be known and for someone to know you and take interest in and validate the things that you enjoy, say, and contribute. When children have a lack in this area it can cause low self-esteem. For adults, that can be contributed to feelings of self-hatred, people pleasing, and not feeling good enough.
Children are constantly looking for their parent’s approval and attention. If you spend time with a young child it won’t be long before you might hear, “Mommy! Daddy! Watch me!”, or “Did you see me do that?”, and even “Did I do a good job?” This is a child’s way of asking “Did you see and hear me?”
How can I help my child feel seen and known?
Play with your child.
A child’s language is play. They process emotions, life experiences, and resolve problems through play. They also receive a tremendous amount of satisfaction and connection through play. Allow your child to show you their world. Playing with your child builds connection and positive relationship, and also helps form communication skills.
Reflecting a child’s emotion instead of fixing or dismissing.
Children feel lots of emotions throughout the day and sometimes it can be exhausting as a parent to ride their emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes their reactions and emotions can even feel personal if you are trying hard as a parent to satisfy and please a child. Children do not need us to fix their problems for them! They need a safe space to express their emotion and receive care. Reflecting a child’s emotions is saying back to them what you see them expressing. For example, Johnny’s toy broke and he is crying. Instead of rushing to the store to buy a replacement or dismissing the pain, take a moment and tell the child what you see. “This makes you feel so sad. I can tell how much you enjoyed playing with this toy. Can I give you a hug?” This allows for the child to connect on an emotional level and allow their emotions to “feel seen and heard”. You can also reflect happy emotions. For example, Lucy made a soccer goal for her team. “You feel so happy right now! You worked so hard to score a goal, good job!”
This takes work. To adequately “see and hear” a child, the parent must do work to “see and hear” themselves. It is the work of knowing your own triggers, tendencies, patterns, and needs. It is being able to identify your own emotions, know “the why” behind it, and move forward in processing and self-care. Parents needs self-care. Self-care is not just eating a piece of dark chocolate once in a while hidden in a closet away from your family. True self-care is feeding the deep place of yourself that needs nourishment and giving it space to be valued enough to be cared for. I encourage you to do the hard and rewarding work to get to know yourself and what you need, it is an important part of parenting whole-heartedly.