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Six Tips to Make Your Child Feel Heard

By: Z Family Law

In the midst of a divorce or custody case, you may find that your child is experiencing a lot of hard emotions, including feeling like everything is out of their control, or like they aren’t being listened to. Even (and perhaps especially) if your child doesn’t get to decide what their custody arrangement looks like, you can help them navigate this difficult time by making them feel understood, heard, and validated. Read on for six tips for ensuring your child knows their voice is important.


1. Practice Active Listening and Ask Questions

When your child is speaking, put away your phone and eliminate other distractions, look them in the eye, and use your body language to indicate you are really listening - for instance, nod as they speak and lean towards them or sit down so you’re on their level. Say things like “I understand,” ‘Mhmm,” and “I see.” Ask questions to clarify your understanding or just gather more details.


2. Validate their Feelings

Even if a child’s problems may seem silly, their feelings are just as important to them as yours are to you. Tell them that what they are feeling is valid, and help them work through it by asking them what they think . You can’t always solve their problems, and many times, you shouldn’t try to, but letting them know that you hear and understand how they feel can be really helpful. 


3. Give Them Choices

During a divorce or child custody matter, kids often feel like everything is out of their control. One way to combat this is to ask your child(ren) what they think, and to give them choices. They might not have the option to stay at mom’s or dad’s on Wednesday night, but they can pick what they’ll have for dinner at mom’s, or whether Friday will be movie night or board game night. Even small choices make a difference, like asking them whether they'd like to put on their pajamas or brush their teeth first. Letting them choose puts the power back in their hands, so your child knows their thoughts matter. 


4. Involve them in Big Decisions, Life Events, and Day-to-Day Routines

Just like giving children choices can be helpful, so can including them in big decisions and life events. If your kids will soon be splitting their time between two homes, involve them in the process of selecting furniture, paint, and decorations for their new room. Take them along with you to open houses if you’re looking for a new home, and walk around the neighborhood afterwards. Listen to their thoughts and ask for their opinions. 


Even looping them in and giving them responsibilities when it comes to day-to-day routines, such as having them help plan out meals or put together the grocery list, can have a big impact in giving them control over what's happening around them. 


5. Break the Cycle of "No"

When juggling all the many tasks and challenges of parenting, it can be easy to get caught up in a cycle of “no,” always declining to let your child do things they want to do, often for no real reason at all.


It doesn’t make you a bad parent or mean you don’t care about your child’s desires, but if you find yourself saying no more than you say yes, take a second and evaluate whether letting your child do something they want to will really make that big of a difference to you... because it will likely make a big difference to them. If they want to wear the green sweater, but you had already picked out a red one, what’s the real harm in letting them wear the green one? You can’t always grant their wishes, of course, but you may be surprised how good it feels to say “yes” more often!


6. Seek the Help of a Professional

Single parenting can be challenging, but you don’t have to do this alone. A child psychologist can provide essential support to your child(ren) during difficult times, giving them another outlet to express their emotions and struggles while equipping them with coping skills and strategies for managing anxiety, sadness, uncertainty, and other difficult feelings. 


Contact an Experienced Maryland Family Lawyer

If you're navigating a divorce or child custody case, you need a compassionate and knowledgeable Maryland child custody attorney by your side. We can help. Contact our Rockville Child Custody and Divorce Lawyers today by calling (301) 388-5528 or emailing

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