The good news is that parent-child conversations don’t have to be laden with misunderstandings.
We parents are often guilty of talking at instead of talking to our kids. We put up a steady stream of instructions, advice and chatter forgetting that children often process things differently.
The way we talk to our kids impacts their ability to listen to us and determines whether they’ll respond to what we say. The good news is that parent-child conversations don’t have to be laden with misunderstandings. With a little work on your part, you can become an effective communicator.
Here’s what the experts (many of them parents themselves) recommend:
1. Choose a time when your kids are most likely to talk.
Consider talking to your children when they’re not distracted. For instance, mornings are pretty hectic at our house, with everyone rushing around trying to get to school or work on time. Trying to talk to my kids then would be a waste of time, so I do it when we’re driving home after school. Find a time that works best for you e.g. during or after dinner, at bedtime, etc. Alternatively, set aside some time every week to hang out, bond and just chat with each of your kids.
2. Really listen to what they’re saying.
When your kids come to you with their thoughts, concerns and problems, pause whatever you are doing and just listen. Giving your children your undivided attention shows them that they’re important and makes them feel valued and validated. So learn to listen without being judgmental and intrusive and they’ll gradually open up to you.
3. Allow them to make their own choices and learn from them.
One of the mistakes we modern parents make is refusing to allow our kids to take risks and learn from failure. On the rare occasions that our children do fail, we refuse to let them think about it, believing that their esteem will somehow suffer. However, research shows that those who feel the pain of failure learn and improve faster than those who distance themselves from it. Let your children make their own mistakes but also be available to help them solve problems and provide the support and encouragement they need.
4. Don’t shy away from tough issues.
Difficult and uncomfortable conversations are par for the course when you’re a parent. Don’t think that your kids are too young to understand weighty topics like racism and bullying. Instead, be proactive and broach these topics early and often. Tailor the conversation to suit your kid’s age and introduce more subjects like drugs and substance abuse as they grow older.
5. Acknowledge their fears and feelings.
As you talk to your kids, be careful not to ridicule, criticize or trivialize their feelings, fears or opinions. This would destroy their self-confidence and esteem, so reassure them that you’ll protect, support and love them no matter what. Also take care to keep your feelings out of the conversation, focusing on theirs instead.
Although we really can’t avoid occasional misunderstandings with our kids, learning how to listen and talk to each other goes a long way towards fostering the strong, healthy relationships we all desire.
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