In almost every programme conducted by Ms Grace Oh of Community Services & Programmes @ Children’s Society, there is always at least one child who is more keen to talk than to listen, she says. 

“This child prefers to discuss what is happening at school or at home, or just share more about himself or herself,” says Grace. “As much as I want to hear them out, the thought of not being able to complete the session on time comes to mind, so I acknowledge that what they want to say is important, but tell them that the conversation can continue after the session.”

Yet, reflecting on the Society’s Children’s Day social media campaign, #InTheirOwnWords, she does wonder if there is greater value in simply listening than in pressing on. The campaign centred around providing children with the space and time to speak, and on being truly present for them.

“It seems like the most logical thing to do, but I do wonder if it signals to the children that what I deliver during the session is more important than what they have to say,” says Grace. 

Where she can, she tries to be more deliberate in giving children the space to share, and it has resulted in some great insights. 

“Giving them space to share helps me understand what really matters to them. It also creates a safe space for other children to share their own experiences and feelings, and those moments have become teachable ones for how to support one another.”

Her colleague, Ms Lee Mei Yi, had a similar experience. A child opened up about being physically bullied in school, something the child had kept quiet about because he had been threatened by the bully. It was when he realised it was safe to speak and that someone was listening that he opened up about his experience. 

What’s as important is listening actively, not passively, so trust and connections are built, and children feel both safe to share and be heard.

“As adults, we often have so much on our minds, and it is not uncommon for us to tell children that we are busy. While it’s easier said than done, I hope adults don’t get too busy to listen to our children,” says Grace. 

Hear more from Grace and Mei Yi on the importance of tuning in to children’s thoughts and feelings in this video.

Click here to read the story in Chinese.