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Healthy Habits

Five ways to be a supportive listener for your child

Help make sure your child feels safe, supported, and understood during important conversations.
5 min read
March 8, 2021
Hazel Team
The editorial staff at Hazel are a diverse group of writers and professionals.

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This blog was informed by a conversation with Dr. Arash Anoshiravani. Dr. Anoshiravani is a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Stanford School of Medicine and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

When children feel sad or worried about something, they may be afraid to share their emotions with their parents. You can help your child feel more comfortable expressing feelings by practicing supportive listening. You can follow these three steps to help make sure your child feels safe, supported, and understood throughout these important conversations.

Step One: Listen
Listen to what your child has to say. Show that this conversation is important to you. Put away your phone, turn down the television, and pay attention to what is being discussed. When a young person feels they are being listened to, it takes a huge emotional and psychological burden off of them that parents shouldn’t underestimate. Active listening lays the foundation for any future changes or developments.

Tip: Ask open-ended questions
Some young people may feel nervous if you ask specific questions about their behavior. Instead, simply ask how they are doing and let them talk about what is going on. They will share what they are comfortable sharing, and many times this conversation will naturally lead to them opening up. 

If you are concerned there is a problem, but they aren’t mentioning it, you may say, “There are so many things going on in the world right now, and there are a lot of people feeling worried, is that the same for you?” It’s best to keep your side of the conversation matter-of-fact, so they don’t feel like you expect a specific response. 

Tip: Respect your child’s boundaries
If your child isn’t ready to talk, you can respect that and let them know you are available if they ever need help. This can open a door for a future conversation while showing that you respect and trust them.

Step Two: Educate
Sometimes a child just needs to know that many people feel the same way they do.  Share with them that they are not the only ones who get nervous before a class presentation. They aren’t the only person who worries about the world. Sometimes hearing that many people share these feelings, even adults, takes a huge burden off children because they don’t feel so strange or alone.

Step Three: Reframe the situation
The last thing, aside from listening and education, is to reframe the situation. It’s helpful for young people to understand that there are many different perspectives for any given situation. You can help your child understand why a person is acting a certain way toward them. Could your teacher be strict because they want you to learn? Maybe your older brother told on you because he is trying to protect you? Could their behaviors be out of love? Often, helping a child understand a situation in a slightly different way can help them feel differently and behave differently.

Remember, it can be difficult for children to open up, but it can help to have a caring, respectful adult willing to think through things with them. The parent-child relationship has a lot of emotions wrapped up in it on both sides, so it can be equally as hard for parents to talk about some feelings with their children. If you are having trouble discussing feelings, your pediatrician can help talk with your child. Learn more about in our next blog: Interview with Dr. Arash Anoshiravani: How do doctors approach mental wellness with young patients?

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Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.