by Aubrey C.
The new school year is here, and parents and children alike have so much on their minds right now. As parents, talking to our kids can seem nearly impossible at times. Here are some fundamental tips that can help open up a better communication line between you and your children, no matter how young or old:
In our busy programmed lives, being available to our children and having unstructured time with them gives them an opportunity to talk to us. I love hearing my son’s thoughts about his friends and teachers, but he usually shares spontaneously. So I have to be available and ready to listen. This is also true about difficult topics like depression, bullying, and sexual abuse. Put away your electronic devices and give your full attention when you listen. The more you are available to listen, they more they will talk.
As kids get older they learn fast what to tell their parents and what not to tell their parents. If they talk about being upset about a bad grade and we follow up with “why didn’t you study more?” they quickly learn to keep those feelings to themselves. Many parents suffer from “parent-itis” (me included), which means we always want to fix our children’s problems. But the first step in listening is being quiet and letting the child talk. Resist the need to fix, kids will keep talking when we simply listen.
Be a Parrot
Key to listening is simply rephrasing what the child just said. So if your child says “I’m sick of my sister getting all the attention!” A simple rephrasing would be “Wow, you seem really mad that your sister is getting more attention than you. Tell me more about that.” This lets them know you understand and keeps them talking. As children learn that you listen without “judging” or “fixing,” they will be more likely to talk to you about all sorts of things. This goes especially for topics that they otherwise may be too shy or embarrassed to express.
Kids are sponges. Let them hear you talking with family and friends about your thoughts and feelings. Be a role model to them for talking about difficult topics, like sex. Kids will learn to be comfortable sharing their feelings, and it will become their style as well.
If you are experiencing difficulties getting your child to open up about important issues and need some advice, call 281-CARE (513-281-2273).