National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation First Candle National Center for Cultural Competence Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development

Module 4What families need

A key skill in supporting families is called active listening. Active listening is listening without thinking about what you’re going to say next. In the face of a family’s pain, it is often difficult to practice this skill - we want to rush in and make them feel better.

Using this approach, however, can help the family feel that you are with them in their crisis and that you are willing to listen to their expressions of pain, fear, anger and loss. To be an active listener, use the following approaches:

  • Acknowledge what you hear.
  • Repeat major words or phrases.
  • Listen for emotional content.
  • Avoid premature interruption.
  • Work with voids. Don’t fill them.
  • Ask questions about feelings.
  • Strive to be sympathetic, neutral and non-judgmental.

When you speak, speak from your heart to theirs.

  • Call child by name
  • Listen
  • Share your sorrow and helplessness
  • Remember siblings

Things you can say:

  • "I am so sorry.”
  • “I can’t imagine how you must feel.”
  • “I know it’s hard to think clearly right now.”
  • “I need to explain what will happen next.”
  • “Let me explain why this is important.”

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