Google ‘how to listen to under 5’s’ and you find endless pages about encouraging children to listen, but very little on how adults can actively listen to them. This might suggest we are not interested in listening to very young children and therefore to understanding who they are.
But that’s just not true! We listen to our youngest children by taking notice of their responses and their feelings, whether these are described through cries, sounds, words or behaviours. This helps us to understand their daily lives and empower them as individuals.
Listening and taking notice is a vital part of establishing respectful relationships with young children and their families, it helps us to discover their questions about life and how we can respond to their spiritual and faith needs.
We don’t always need a formal process we just need to be alert in conversations with both children and adults. Any questions we might ask need to be open, wondering questions. Essentially we always need to be aware of safeguarding around how we share what people tell us or what we notice. This can be as simple as asking permission to share, telling the person who you will be sharing with and why and assuring anonymity.
With all this in mind, what opportunities are available to you for everyday conversations to take place?
How might you enable spiritual conversations to take place and notice children’s and adult’s responses?
Prayer spaces, access to a spiritual garden, outdoor worship, creativity, sensory play, Table Talk, access to a church building, the chance to talk with other Christians are all helpful, but mostly it’s just about coming alongside people and beginning the conversation.
Click here to view ‘Listening to Babies’ from the Young Children’s Voices Network
Click here to view ‘Why and how we listen to very young children’ the Young Children’s Voices Network
Blog by the Revd Joanne Wetherall, Growing Faith and Spirituality Officer for the Diocese of Gloucester