Shut up and listen!
We say, “Kids say the darndest things,” but often we neglect the things they say when they really need us SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
As adults, we have a tendency to view ourselves superior to children. As parents, we think we know better than our children. In both cases, we are wrong.
Yes, it’s true that we may have more education and be more knowledgeable in certain aspects of life, but to disregard children and ignore the many lessons they have to offer us is ignorant. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.
When my child was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorders, I piled up on the research and tried to learn everything I could about her disorders. I wanted to be able to help her in every way and to provide her a life just like any other child. I didn’t want her disorders to hold her back from prospering in this world. However, what I didn’t know was that my child was my biggest, untapped resource.
Age is just a number. Experience is key.
As a child, I saw my daughter as weak and uneducated, especially when she was first diagnosed at four-years-old. What I failed to realize is that regardless of her age, she knew something I didn’t and she understood something I couldn’t. SHE was the one with severe anxiety disorders. SHE was the one living with them and the many other traits that came along with her diagnosis. No matter how many articles or books I read, or how many conversations I had with her doctors, I would never know what was truly going on in her head. I could read numerous case studies, but there was only one her, and only she could explain what she was going through. This was a fact I ignorantly disregarded.
It took me awhile to accept that I can try to be the most educated and equipped mother out there to help her, but she would always know more than me because of her real-life experiences. I could speak from the outside looking in, but only she could speak of what was truly happening inside.
Learning to listen.
There were many times I tried to justify her tears. I attempted to alleviate her pain based on what I assumed was the right thing to do. Sometimes it worked, many times it didn’t. I remember numerous occasions when she would suddenly break down and cry. I would ask a million questions or come up with a hundred reasons why her anxiety was heightened, but what I didn’t do enough, was SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
My husband, struggling to accept that mental illness was now a part of our daily lives, found it difficult to cope when my daughter would have an attack. His reaction would range from, “There is no need to be scared,” to, “There is no reason to cry.” When she would try to explain to him that she didn’t have control over her anxiety attacks, he would shut her out. She would talk less about her anxiety around him. She would hide her true feelings from him. She started to try to cover up who she really was. Not because she was ashamed, but because she couldn’t explain what was going on in a way she felt her dad would understand. He continuously tried to tell our daughter to make friends, play, and loosen up. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, it never made her disorder better or made her more social. My husband desperately wanted to help our daughter, but his approach and the situations he put her in only created more anxiety attacks and put her more in a shell. Many of her attacks and negative experiences could have been prevented if he just learned how to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
It took me years to finally listen to my child when she said something such as, “I don’t want to go to the birthday party.” I constantly forced her into painful situations thinking it would help her become comfortable in public gatherings. It never did and it only made things worse. I forced family gatherings and hanging out with friends upon her, telling her I understood her apprehensions, and I promised her it would get better. But in reality, who was I to talk? Who was I to say these things would go away? I wasn’t in her head. I wasn’t in her body. I had no right to say I knew what she was going through. What I needed to do was SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
The crazy thing about this realization is that we, as adults, seem to overlook our inept and horrible listening skills when it comes to children. We think we are listening, but we area only selecting what we want to hear when it comes from the mouths of children. When it comes to something as important as children explaining THEIR medical condition, we shut them out instead of learning to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
Now that my daughter is twelve-years-old and has spent the last eight years trying to advocate for herself against, us, family members, friends, teachers, school staff, and the world, she has no problem telling us, “Just listen!” My daughter has disclosed that some of the hardest parts of her life were when she just wished we would listen to her.
If I knew how to truly listen to my daughter, I would have known that what she wanted more than anything from us was:
·To let her sit in silence instead of pushing her to talk.
·To let her cry it out instead of trying to stop her crying.
·To let her sit alone instead of trying to force her to make friends and be social.
·To SHUT UP AND LISTEN and let her explain in her own words, in her own way, in her own time, instead of trying to tell her what she was feeling.
I know it sounds crazy right? Letting a child tell us to listen isn’t the way society has taught us how to act as adults or parents, but in certain situations, such as having a child with anxiety or any other mental illness, it’s what we need to do. Unless we have suffered from the same disorder, we cannot say, “I know what you are feeling”. We cannot fully comprehend what they are experiencing unless we learn to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
I’ve become used to hearing, “That’s not what I mean” or “You don’t get it”. For most parents, they may find those responses as disrespectful. I no longer do because it’s how she has learned to get my attention after years of us not listening. I’ve become used to receiving the silent treatment and an attitude, but I don’t hold that against my child because it has become her way of reminding me to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
She holds the key to helping my husband and me learn about her and her disorders. What we think is right or how things should be, are not correct most of the time. We now open our ears and listen because that is truly the only way to help our child. Children should never be made to feel less because they have a mental illness, a disorder, a condition, a diagnosis, or any other label given by a doctor, a psychologist, a therapist, or society. Instead, we as adults and parents should learn to listen to children to help them thrive in a way that is uniquely theirs. To do so, we need to open our ears and hearts and let them tell us what makes them comfortable, what makes them uncomfortable, what scares them, what makes them happy, and overall, what makes them who they are, special humans.
These children have so much to teach the world about them and their disorders and conditions if we all just learn to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
Accepting the truth of having a child who is special.
It took my daughter a long time to finally open our eyes as her parents, and as adults, and accept the fact that sometimes we need to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.
We always hoped she would grow out of her condition, but the truth is, having severe General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and OCD is who she is and we love every part of her. She has and will continue to learn how to adapt her life to her condition. Hopefully, one day she will be able to live her life without medication, without doctors, and without daily anxiety attacks, but that will not make her condition magically disappear. It will always be a part of her. Sometimes she feels it’s not fair. Sometimes I blame myself. Neither of us can control the fact that she has anxiety, but if there is anything I can do to help my daughter live a better life with her condition, it’s to SHUT UP AND LISTEN.