When we are listening deeply and carefully, with an understanding of the importance of social context, we can tune in to the person in front of us, seeking to understand them and their identity.
Often, families will offer many clues about their lives without us having to ask. They may provide us with all the information we need just by being themselves with us. When we listen attentively as family members talk, to us and to each other, we may hear small hints that reveal who they are, where they are from, how they live and who they live with. This can provide us with guideposts along the way as we strive to make a connection and support them in supporting their children.
We can meet parents and guardians where they are at, listening and absorbing their definitions of themselves and their lives – their identity. There is a wealth of wisdom in simply taking in these rich details.
During a meeting with her student’s father, a teacher listened carefully to the father’s description of his family’s home life. She noticed that the father used gender neutral terms when referring to his spouse. When referring to his spouse, the teacher made sure to leave space for all possibilities, saying “she or he”. Eventually, the father shared that his spouse was also a man.