An open and honest continuing dialogue with our children is crucial for parental success. When walls are created and information stunted, we are not able to forecast trouble looming on the horizon. Lack of proper communication also stymies solid bonding between parent and child. Many family tragedies could be avoided simply by talking. Here are some thoughts to help bring the joyous sounds of constant family chatter to your home.
The reality of the 21st century family is that life is fast-paced and distractions are everywhere. Decisions on family meals are often made on the fly. Dinner can mean a quick run to the drive-thru or popping something in the microwave. Yet, the dinner table is the very best place for spontaneous family conversations to occur. “Breaking bread” together is a time-proven way to spark connections. Make a point of having the entire family eat in one location at least two or three times per week. No televisions and no devices. No forced conversation required. Let it occur naturally.
Speaking of the 21st century, texting has become a mainstream form of viable communication. Use it to your advantage. The trick in this tip is to not be annoying to your child. No nagging or lectures allowed via text. They also hate it when you try to act “cool.” Simply text your child when required, such as asking a pick up time or a practice time. Mainly, however, use texting as a stealth bonding tool. An inside joke only the two of you understand. Sending inspiration before a big test or giving a pat on the back after an achievement. Little messages received in a positive way from your child create an entirely new line of communication.
The Family Truckster
In many ways, the family car has replaced the dinner table as the place real talking happens. As families, we always seem to be in the van or SUV headed somewhere. Inside the family truckster there is laughter, arguments and real debate. Acknowledge that reality and consider the huge potential for it. Do not let “Mix 98” or the DVD player squash the moments. Those things have their very useful purposes in your car. But when just driving to soccer practice and back, you can sure learn a lot with only light music playing in the background.
Communication = Listening
It can be a difficult task to just listen. We are all pretty good at getting our own views across. Are we really listening to the rebuttal? True communication is a two-way street. Give and take. Listen to what your child is saying or even not saying. One of the biggest complaints by teenagers towards their parents is “they never listen to me.” Take the hint and zip the lip. They need you to hear how they feel.
One on one time with each of your children is highly important. In a group dynamic, some voices are heard more than others. Your quiet “shy” child most likely has plenty to say when given a chance. Make sure to distribute your time equally among all your children. Go for a walk together, the park, a bike ride or anything where the two of you are alone. The benefits of this to your relationship are enormous.
The Right Approach
Not every conversation is going to be pleasant. As parents we are responsible for disciplining and guiding our children. How we go about this duty makes all the difference in the world in regards to future communication. All personalities are different. Some children need a “swift kick in the rear” so the saying goes. Others need a gentle, but firm, touch. Never doubt the ability of your child to counteract your effectiveness by shutting you out. If you do not take the right approach based on how your child reacts, you will fail in the long run. Just because “you said so” will not make it so. Children today are more well-rounded and experienced than in the past. This must be realized and respected for discipline to not also create communication barriers.
Consider the last several conversations with your child. What were they about? A delicate balance is required for the relationship to thrive. Were they dominated by criticism? This can cause a child to lose self-confidence. Too much praise can create over-confidence and an unrealistic attitude. Balance your conversations intently with a mix of necessary criticism and praise. But also sprinkle them heavily with humor and normal topics.
Open Your Book
Your child should know who you are. To them your life should be an “open book.” Honestly share your experiences, the good and the bad, with your child. The funny stories. The tragic events. Hard lessons learned. It makes you real and relatable. There are always some things better left unsaid to a child. The remainder, however, should be shared openly and often. Sharing builds trust and trust is exactly what you are trying to earn.
Walk In Their Shoes
Educating yourself to the issues they face will greatly increase your ability to communicate effectively. Peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, dating and, of course, school. A myriad of ever-evolving issues face your child every day. Know them and stay current on the constant changes. Remember that life is much different now than it was even ten years ago. Technology and society have change dramatically. Certain core family principles never change, but how they are applied and used certainly do. Walk a mile in their shoes if you want them to respect what you are trying to say.
At Ease Soldier
Above all, simply relax and be yourself. This is your family. Your sanctuary from the crazy world around you. Unconditional love should be given by you as well as received back. It’s the most beautiful part of having a family. If you are relaxed and open, your child will respond back with the same. They should know that “your door is always open” for whatever issue they might need to discuss. If love and trust exist in your home, communication will flow like a mighty river.
Related Resource: Connect to Life
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