Parenting is hard work. It’s taxing, exhausting, challenging. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are raising a human being, a complex human being, and it will get tough at times. Just when we thought we have figured them out, they change and evolve, and present us with new needs we need to meet.
But did you know that a lot of the challenges we are having can be solved through communication? So many situations have gone haywire just because we have failed to communicate with our children. And when I say communicate this means talking, explaining, but most importantly listening. When was the last time you really listened to your child?
When was the last time you tuned out everything, stopped whatever you’re doing, and sat down to really listen to what your child has to say? When was the last time you looked into his eyes and truly tried to understand what he was trying to tell you?
We get too caught up with the bills, with our work, with the crying baby sister, with cleaning the messy house that we find it hard to slow down, and find out what our kids are up to, how they’re feeling, what’s bothering them.
Communication is important to maintain good relationships with your children, and here are a few very simple tips from the American Psychological Association:
- Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk — for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car — and be available.I’m sure you still remember how it felt like as a child. Trying to find the perfect time to talk to your parents about something that’s been bugging you? It’s like that too for our kids. Sometimes they just don’t feel like opening up, but when they do you have to stop whatever you’re doing and make them feel like you’re really available. Like what they have to say is important to you.
- Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.Don’t expect your children to open up to you just like that. You need to spend time with them and make a connection. You have to make them feel that you are really there, and that they are important to you, so much so that you are willing to spend undivided time with them as much as you can. You have to make them feel comfortable around you, enough for them to feel free to open up without feeling scared about how you would react.
- When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.This one’s pretty tough. When you have bills pilling up, deadlines you need to meet, a house you need to clean, it’s hard to just drop everything and focus on what your child has to say. But we have to constantly remind ourselves who we are doing all these things for anyway. We have to remind ourselves that at the end of the day our children are the most important people in our lives and they just need a few minutes of our undivided attention. These few minutes will mean the world to them.
- Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.It’s difficult not to respond with anger when you hear about their mistakes, the trouble they might have gotten themselves into and other disappointing news. But try your best to control your emotions and listen to your child first. Be thankful that he is telling this to you and you are not hearing it from someone else. Be thankful that he felt comfortable enough that he can open up about it and admit this to you. Our role as parents is to help our children make sense of their experience. And we won;’t be able to guide them if we don’t know what’s happening and we don’t communicate.
- Kids learn from their own choices. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don’t feel you have to step in.We don’t always have to intervene and solve problems for them. Sometimes we just need to guide them through it, help them make sense of what’s happening and let them solve the problem themselves. It’s hard, but at times we have to let them learn and make their own decisions.
- Realize your children may test you by telling you a small part of what is bothering them. Listen carefully to what they say, encourage them to talk and they may share the rest of the story.Don’t scare them into clamming up and keeping the other details about the problem or the situation to themselves by reacting with anger or judging them right away. Criticising them for their choices without hearing them out will make them feel like they can’t open up to you after all. Would you rather they approach someone else about their problems and ask for help from other people?