Ideas for Parents
A conversation starts. Your child’s upset. Pretty soon, the conversation heats into an argument. It ends when a door slams followed by silence. Arguments. We’ve all had them with our children. Sometimes it may feel like most conversations end with slammed doors. Though it can be challenging to develop skills, being available for frequent, in-depth conversations is an important role we play in our children’s lives- from the time they learn to talk all the way to adulthood. What we have to do create an atmosphere of communication – an open door. The trick with open-door communication is that we often don’t realize we create invisible closed doors around us. We get preoccupied and don’t pay enough attention. We’re exhausted, and we nod off, as our child is in midsentence. We jump to conclusions before our child say things. We assume the worst. We criticize our kids for what they tell us, so they close the door the next time out of resentment or fear. Sometimes there is no communication to begin with, and it’s hard to get your child to say what’s going on in his or her life. Having an open door means having an open mind and an open attitude. It means listening to understand, not to advocate our position. It means being available when your children need us- and when they don’t. It means taking good care of ourselves so that when our children want to talk, we have open ears and an open heart.
Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when they and their parents communicate positively, and they are more willing to seek parent’s advice and counsel. 30% of youth surveyed by Search Institute have this asset in their lives.
Tips that make it easier to communicate positively with your child:
ü Watch for hints: A child who hangs around usually wants to talk.
ü Don’t contradict what you are saying by doing the opposite.
ü Be available, be open, and be wiling to drop what you are doing in order to talk.
ü Talk in the car when you are side by side, rather that face to face.
Three ways to improve communication with your child:
“When we communicate, we are telling others who we are and we are asking others who they are,” says Dr. Daniel G. Bagby, family counselor. He says there are five characteristics of in-depth communication:
1) Reveal yourself-Honestly tell others your thoughts, ideas, feelings, and goals.
2) Jump in – Actively start conversations. Don’t wait for others to talk first.
3) Be responsible – Take control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
4) Don’t blame- Take responsibility for your behavior without blaming or shaming others.
5) Be human- Share your weaknesses in addition to your strengths to develop trust and closeness.
Listen more than you talk.
Make it easy for your child to spend time talking with you. Keep an extra stool or chair in the kitchen, den, and home office, or workshop area. You’ll enjoy this time together.
Questions to discuss with your child:
ü Whom do you enjoy talking with? Why?
ü What opens the door for communication in our family? What closes the door?
ü Which topics are easy to talk about in our family? Which are hard? Why?
“We share the same things in my family – sweat lodge, making tobacco offerings. Sharing these makes for good communication and makes the family strong.” – American Indian parent in the Minnesota Family Strength Project Research Report.