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Amplifying children’s voices: the crucial Role of adults


Experts highlight how parents need to cultivate the art of listening (INL Stock Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, May 17, 2024

In a world where the voices of children often go unheard, there lies a profound opportunity for adults to listen, learn, and grow.

From family dynamics to educational institutions and broader societal structures, the value placed on children’s opinions significantly shapes their sense of self-worth and their ability to contribute meaningfully to the world around them.

Impact in shaping the future

Experts say that when adults dismiss or minimise children’s opinions, they risk stunting their emotional and intellectual development, hindering their ability to navigate the complexities of the world with confidence and resilience.

In her book, “The Child in the Family,” renowned developmental psychologist Dr Selma Fraiberg emphasised the importance of creating an environment where children feel valued and respected.

She wrote, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. It is a necessity.” This sentiment extends beyond playtime to include all aspects of a child’s life, including their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

When adults prioritise listening to children and acknowledging the validity of their perspectives, they create a foundation for healthy emotional and cognitive growth.

Why it is essential

But why is it essential for adults to value children’s opinions? According to Dr Haim Ginott, author of “Between Parent and Child,” “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.”

Valuing children’s opinions fosters a sense of belonging, empowerment, and agency. It communicates to children that their voices matter and that they are capable of contributing meaningfully to discussions and decision-making processes.

Moreover, valuing children’s opinions promotes empathy and understanding. Children see the world from a unique perspective, unencumbered by the biases and preconceptions that often cloud adult judgment.

As Dr Ginott aptly stated, “Children are not things to be moulded but are people to be unfolded. When adults listen to what children have to say, they gain fresh insights and cultivate a deeper appreciation for different viewpoints. This, in turn, fosters a culture of empathy and inclusivity that benefits individuals of all ages.”

A few simple changes go a long way (Infographics by Praneeta Mahajan for INL)

Active listening is the key

Adults can ensure that they are genuinely valuing children’s opinions with active listening.

Dr Ginott states, “The most valuable thing a parent can give their child is time,” he remarked. Instead of dismissing or brushing aside children’s thoughts and feelings, adults should take the time to listen attentively, ask follow-up questions, and show genuine interest in what they have to say. This validates children’s experiences and fosters a sense of mutual respect and understanding.

Safe and supportive environment

Another crucial aspect is creating a safe and supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing themselves. It fosters a feeling of safety in the children’s mind, which helps them overcome adversities later on in life, as they have the surety of a supportive environment, where their expressions matter.

Adults should actively seek out opportunities to involve children in decision-making processes. Whether it is at home, in school, or in the community, children should have a seat at the table when discussions that affect them are taking place.

Empowerment matters

As Dr Miller wisely stated, “The more articulate a child becomes, the more the adult must step back.” By including children in these conversations, adults not only demonstrate that they value their opinions but also empower them to take an active role in shaping their own lives.

Valuing children’s opinions is not just about being inclusive, it is about recognising the inherent worth and dignity of every individual, regardless of age. When adults listen to what children have to say, they honour their humanity and pave the way for a more compassionate and equitable society.

As Dr Fraiberg eloquently put it, “Children are not things to be moulded but are people to be unfolded.” It is time for adults to embrace this truth and amplify the voices of our youngest citizens.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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