“Remember to face me when you talk to me.” “Can you speak a little bit slower?” “Please move your hands away from your mouth.” “Come here if you need to talk to me, I can’t hear you in another room.” “If I can’t see you, I can’t hear you.”
I sound like a broken record, even to myself. But what is my alternative? I need to teach my children how to speak to me so I can hear them. It’s not an easy task.
This is not a new battle—my children are now thirteen and eleven—but it is an ongoing one. They will remember some days, and forget other times. They are clear communicators for one sentence, but turn away for the next. It can cause sadness and frustration on both sides. I wonder why they can’t consistently speak so I can understand them, and they get annoyed that their nagging mom cannot hear them. It is a struggle, especially when they wave their hands at me in frustration and say, “Never mind.” That really gets my goat.
Maybe my expectations are too high. It is difficult for most adults to alter their speech patterns on a regular basis, why should I expect this from children? But on the other hand, childhood is the time when learning is easiest, and new habits are being formed daily. They have learned how to hold a fork, dress and bathe on their own, and many other things. Why can’t they learn to speak in a loud and clear voice so I can hear them? Some questions have no answers.
So what can I do to remain a patient and loving parent, while coping with the added frustration of hearing loss? Here are my tips.
- Take care of yourself: Like they say on the airplane, “Put your own mask on before assisting others.” I practice yoga and meditate regularly to keep my body and mind as strong as possible. This helps me tackle the hard work of hearing and allows me to better manage my frustration.
- Be persistent: Parenting is all about repetition, so this is not any different. I remind them and remind them and when they forget I remind them again. Keeping your voice neutral and calm during the reminders is critical, but not always easy.
- Encourage them: Notice when they do something to help me hear and compliment them for it. Positive reinforcement can go a long way.
- Forgive them when they fail: We all fail from time to time. Remaining angry is useless. I work on this one every day.
- Pick your battles: You can’t expect perfection so use your reminders wisely. This will cut down on message fatigue, where they just tune you out.
- Schedule important conversations: If there is something particularly important to discuss that isn’t timely, don’t take it on when you are exhausted at the end of the day. Wait for a time when you have better stamina.
- Set boundaries: When your children are angry or upset, ask them to calm themselves first and then speak. Not only is this an important life skill, but it will also aid the communication immeasurably.
- Practice: My children and I play lipreading games every so often. Not only does it perfectly illustrate my “I can’t hear you if I can’t see you” mantra, it is also fun.
- Don’t forget to laugh: A joke can lighten a tough situation and set the stage to try again. Sometimes mis-hearings are pretty funny too.
- Repeat what you did hear: This lets them know what part of what they said was unclear, lessening the amount they need to retell.
- Keep your eye on the prize: Better communication with your children is the primary goal, not that they follow some specific formula for talking to you. Stay flexible and ask them what they think might work.
The good news is that children are very accepting. One day I asked my children if it bothered them to have a mom with hearing loss. They looked at me like they didn’t understand the question. It is all they have ever known.
Readers, how do you teach the children in your life to communicate with you?
This post originally appeared on Living with Hearing Loss. It has been reprinted with permission.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.