Building confidence starts with positive and warm communication in the home. Being able to confidently communicate their needs in the home environment will make it easier for your child with hearing loss to confidently express their needs outside of the home as well.
1. Practice active listening during conversations
In the busyness of everyday life, it’s easy to get distracted during conversations—thinking about work or what chores need to be done around the home. But when your child is trying to tell you something, it is important to pay close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues and really try to understand what they are saying and feeling. By listening closely and responding with understanding, you are showing them that you care about what they have to say and positively reinforce their efforts to open up to you.
2. Value their opinions and foster sound decision making
From a young age, it is important that your child feels heard. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with their views, try not to shoot their ideas down too quickly.
Research on pre-adolescent decision making suggests that, children who know how to make sound decisions by the age of 10 or 11, tend to exhibit less anxiety, sadness and report less peer-related difficulties at ages 12 and 131. If you disagree with your child, try to positively and calmly problem-solve together, and encourage them to think through the pros and cons by considering other viewpoints. This will go a long way toward demonstrating that you value their opinion and foster trust during communication. And remember that kids with hearing loss may lack confidence in their ability to express themselves verbally, so be patient and give them extra time to get their thoughts out.
3. Offer them space when they ask for it
Try not to take it too personally if your child is slow to communicate with you. Sometimes, it can take a bit longer for them to feel comfortable talking about what may be troubling them. Remain supportive and remind them that you are available to talk when they are ready.
“You might want to encourage your child to talk to you about what’s going on, but be understanding and know that they might not want to talk to mom or dad. That’s not a bad thing–kids need to work out for themselves when they need to ask for help”
Bec, CochlearTM Nucleus® System recipient
4. Give your child responsibility
Learning to manage new responsibilities is the first step toward building independence. When kids are younger, start with small responsibilities. For example, give them the responsibility of changing the batteries in their sound processor. Over time, you can work up to bigger and more complex responsibilities such as being the primary driver of their hearing therapy at home or managing the daily maintenance of their sound processor. While these may seem like small tasks, they can help increase their autonomy and confidence over time.
5. Praise your child
Australian parenting website, raisingchildren.net, recommends using descriptive praise and encouragement to build confidence. The website says, “Teenagers may give the impression that they are self-sufficient and no longer need your approval. However, when you notice and comment on your child’s responsible choices and positive behavior, you positively reinforce their actions. Just remember that teenagers often prefer you to praise them privately rather than in front of their friends”2. This can be especially true in kids with hearing loss, they may be even more sensitive to drawing attention in front of classmates and peers.
6. Create comfort in the familiar
There is comfort in the familiar. Family rituals and daily routines can help give your child with hearing loss a sense of control and establish some predictability. While this may sound trivial, it can mean a great deal to your child as they enter the unpredictability of their teen years. These rituals may be anything from games nights, weekend outings to the park or even spaghetti Sunday. It will differ from family to family but remember to celebrate the routines and rituals that are unique to your family.
7. Reinforce truths about their hearing loss
As your child becomes a teenager, they will be trying to figure out their sense of self. This is also the time where they will be especially sensitive to the opinions of their peers – opinions which aren’t always positive and especially when it comes to hearing loss and communication abilities, often rooted in untruths.
For your child to be armed with a strong sense of self and be able to filter out the negative untruths spoken by peers, it is important to instill a sense of pride in what makes them different. Encourage them to explore their interests and try new things. It is important to discuss what interests them, talk about future goals for themselves and create plans on how you can work together to make it happen. When your child is confident of what they can achieve, this will help root their sense-of-self in truths.
8. Seek out positive role models
Do not underestimate the power of positive role models, especially those that have hearing loss. There are a number of celebrities, athletes, writers, artists and scientists with hearing loss—all of whom are proof that hearing loss was not a barrier to achieving their goals.
It is important to remind your child that they are no different from their role models. That one day, they too might share their inspiring story of overcoming the challenges associated with hearing loss. Positive role models can build up their self-confidence and remind them that they have the capabilities to be a part of the next generation of doctors, engineers, athletes, teachers and artists.
Remember, this period will be a time of exploration and discovery for both you and your child with hearing loss. Be patient and you may discover that with the challenges also comes the opportunity to get to know the multi-faceted and interesting young adult your child is becoming. Read more about kids with hearing loss and the ways their parents are supporting them.
- Weller, J., Moholy, M., Bossard, E., & Levin, I.P. Preadolescent Decision‐Making Competence Predicts Interpersonal Strengths and Difficulties: A 2‐Year Prospective Study. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. (2015); 28(1): 76–88
- Praise, encouragement and rewards [internet]. Raising Children Network; (2020), [cited Aug 12, 2020]. Available from: https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/behaviour/encouraging-good-behaviour/praise