The key to any healthy relationship is effective communication. The parent-child relationship is no different. Our children seek out our attention when they are young. They pursue us. It is the parents’ responsibility to simply be available and engage in the conversation. When they begin adolescence, around the age of 11, they stop seeking our attention. This does not mean they don’t want or need our attention. You just change roles. Parents must pursue their children.
Here are some tips to help you build strong communication with your child.
- Make time to talk –Even if you have a busy schedule, set a time, everyday, that is blocked off so you can spend quality time with your child; talking and listening to them. Bed time is great time. It can be as little as 10 minutes.
- Have parent/ child dates– Go on a date with your child! Have fun! Let them choose the activity. Not only do you get to spend some quality time together, you also learn what your child enjoys. Set the date. Write it on the calendar so you both have something to look forward to.
- Ask open-ended questions– Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple yes, no or fine. Examples of open-ended questions or responses are: What was something good/bad about your day? What do you like about playing soccer? I want to understand. Please help me. Tell me more about that.
- Validation– Validate your child’s feelings. You may not agree with how they feel but, let them know that their feelings are valid or okay. Then you can help them figure out the best response to that feeling.
- Reflective listening– The best way to keep a conversation going is to use reflective listening. It’s very simple. You just reflect back what you heard your child say without your opinion included.
Here’s an example using these tips:
Parent: Hi sweetie. Tell me about the high and low of your day.
Child: I’m so mad at my teacher! She wouldn’t let us choose our own groups so now I’m in a group with Tamia and Cara. They don’t even like me! I guess I’m just gonna fail this project. Ugh!
Parent: So you’re mad at your teacher because instead of allowing you to choose your group, she put you in a group with two people you believe don’t like you.
Child: Yes! Exactly! Can you believe it? Of all the people in the class! I can’t work with them. Now I’m gonna fail.
Parent: I’d be annoyed about being a group with people that don’t like me. I understand. Sounds like you think failing is the only option in this situation.
Child: I guess it’s not the only option. I just don’t know how I’m going to work with them. What do you think Mom/Dad?
Parent: Well…let’s work through this together.
See how that worked? Now, I can’t guarantee that EVERY conversation will go this well but, the more you communicate in this manner the more skilled you’ll become. Practice makes better (not perfect)! Try to incorporate at least one of these tips into your interaction with your child. I’m sure you’ll see a positive effect on your relationship.