Empathic listening skills that build trust with children
Written by Karen Sampson
Being a good listener is a skill that can be useful for just about anyone in any given situation. Making an effort to actively listen to another person can help to forge a connection by making that person feel seen, heard and understood.
The ability to listen well and pay attention to what others have to say is especially important for parents and caregivers. This is also true for those who work or interact with children on a regular basis such as teachers, coaches, counselors, pediatricians — and, of course, HopSkipDrive CareDrivers.
What is empathic listening?
According to the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) — a leader in crisis prevention and behavior management that offers communication and behavior training programs for educators and human service professionals — empathic listening is one of the most effective ways to build trust and rapport with children.
CPI defines empathic listening as an active listening approach that “allows a child to talk through a problem and feel understood, without having to solve the problem for them.” Empathic listening is more than simply hearing the words that someone else is saying — it is a skillset that requires time and effort to learn and develop.
There are five basic things you can do to listen with empathy, according to CPI.
CPI’s 5 Steps to Empathic Listening
- Pay attention.
- Be nonjudgmental.
- Focus on feelings, not just facts.
- Allow for silence and reflection.
- Restate to clarify.
Other important aspects of empathic listening that can help a child feel safe and encourage them to share include patience, acceptance, mindfulness, calmness and mirroring.
The benefits of empathic listening
There are many benefits of empathic listening for children, and one of the most important is the building of self-esteem. This video from The Family Institute at Northwestern University demonstrates how reflecting back and validating emotions while listening with empathy can increase a child’s sense of self-worth by making them feel seen, respected and accepted for who they are.
Other benefits of empathic listening include:
- The building of trust and mutual understanding
- The release and expression of emotions
- Reduced stress and tension
- The creation of a safe space for sharing and problem solving
- Better relationships and connections
- Improved interpersonal communication knowledge and skills
Empathy as a HopSkipDrive core value
At HopSkipDrive — as we strive to create opportunity for all through mobility — we are committed to living our values as a company. As a central element of our core value “feel it,” empathy is an integral part of the HopSkipDrive brand.
By approaching the work we do with empathy, we are courageous enough to “feel” the fears, the stress and the worry of others. Being an empathic listener as a CareDriver is just one of the many ways that empathy is woven into the important work we do every day.
Says Los Angeles-based CareDriver Maria Lapides: “For so many kids, they have nobody to talk to. . . If I can lend an ear and be somebody nonjudgmental who is open to hearing what it is they have to say, it makes it so rewarding for me.”