Photography by: Dominick Guillemot
8. Listen from the heart Whether it’s because we’re too busy, cynical or skeptical of their ability to clearly and honestly communicate their needs, many of us tend to brush off or ignore what kids tell us. “Listening can be surprisingly difficult,” says Rodriguez. “As parents, we are so prone to jumping in, drawing conclusions or thinking we already understand the situation. When a child says she’s hungry, parents often say, ‘No you’re not, you just ate.’ When a child says she’s not tired, parents say, ‘Yes you are, it’s past your bedtime.’ And when a child thinks he’s sick, I often hear parents say, ‘No you’re not, you just don’t want to go to school.’ ” We’ve all done it, but at what cost? “A child who is forever dismissed eventually gives up or becomes indifferent at best,” says Ungar. But when children’s thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams are validated, they’re inspired to take responsibility for their actions and make powerful, valuable contributions. So the next time your child is feeling sick, upset, angry, sad or rebellious, let her know that she’s being heard. And pay as much attention to how she expresses herself as you do to her words, asking for more information if you need it, Rodriguez advises. You must also listen to your intuition—and trust that you have the answer or solution. “Sometimes, all it takes is to sit quietly for a few moments, breathe deeply and focus very clearly on a single question, such as, ‘Why is my child sad?’ or ‘What should I do about this problem?’ and the answer will come to you, clear as a bell,” Rodriguez notes. “Meditation is an excellent way to refine, clarify and turn up the volume on your intuition. It’s in there. All you have to do is listen.” When you do, the love, wisdom and empowerment you bring to your child’s life stands to be limitless. but increased risk of suicidal thinking. Even over-the-counter medications like those used to treat colds and coughs have led to adverse events, including overdoses and infant deaths. Of course medications may be necessary and even lifesaving for some, but if your child is suffering from an ailment—whether mental, physical or behavioral—drugs may not always be the best option. “For behavior problems, rule out potential issues such as food allergies or sensitivities or vision problems before turning to medication,” suggests Wedge. “It may be that a child who isn’t doing his class work doesn’t have ADHD, but simply needs eyeglasses.” In many cases, psychotherapy can be as effective—if not more so—than medication, Wedge adds. “For physical ailments that result from stress and not from a real physical illness, family therapy, guided imagery and meditation have helped many children get over problems like stomachaches and headaches,” she notes.