Word on the street with Helen Connolly: Believe your kids

Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children & Young People, shares insight into why we need to believe our children when they tell us all is not right in their world.

Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children & Young People

with Helen Connolly
Commissioner for Children & Young People

Being believed is crucial to kids. It makes them feel respected and valued. Imagine not being believed? Sadly many kids have this experience regularly when interacting with some adults in their lives, at home, at school, or in the community, when accessing government or community services.
If you want your kids to learn the value of trust then demonstrate how this is done. Create opportunities to spend time actively listening to your child, so that you foster moments where real mutual trust and respect can be forged.

As adults we need to reinforce in kids that what they think really does matter, that their opinions are valid and worth sharing, and that what they tell us is of concern to them will be taken seriously. They need to know that the adults in their lives are genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, and that what’s worrying them will be prioritised.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the things that bothered us when we were kids are the same things that bother children and young people today. They’re growing up in an entirely different world to the one in which we were raised, so their interests and concerns are completely different.
Kids look for moments when they can forget their limitations around language and emotions, and instead share their deepest concerns and discoveries with adults they trust, knowing they’re not being judged.

The adults that children and young people have told me they like most, are those who are happy, helpful and accommodating, who have a friendly smile, a warm and welcoming manner, and who show empathy, honesty and respect.

Take the time to get to know your children individually. Listen to them with interest and an open mind, and take their ideas and suggestions seriously. Include them in your decision-making. Make an effort to understand their lives and their different points of view. Don’t just make assumptions about their situations, or assume you know best.

By building the kind of relationship that reinforces interest in your child or young person’s point of view and by practising active listening, you will lay down the foundations for a relationship full of mutual respect and cooperation. You will engender confidence in your child or young person to seek you out when they need some extra support, particularly at those times when they can’t manage what’s not right in their world by themselves.

If you’re a child or young person, parent or grandparent who would like to get in touch with me, send an email to:


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Helen Connolly

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