Communication may be the most important factor in relationships. Without communication, there are no beginnings, there is no healing, there are no solutions, and there is no understanding.
A family that doesn’t communicate properly is full of tension, if not chaos. When children are in a family where communication is lacking, they are lost and confusion reigns. They need interaction, direction, and encouragement to learn, to grow, and to feel love.
Think back to a time as a child, or even as an adult, when you were very enthusiastic or proud of something you have done. Yet no one seems to notice. It puts doubt in your mind that what you have accomplished may not have any real value. Most people, especially kids, are not looking for glory. They are looking for affirmation. Encouragement is like rocket fuel to kids!
As kids get older, they sometimes become more difficult to talk to, and many parents give up. Well let’s state the obvious. You can’t give up if you’re a parent! One word answers like fine, ok, maybe, because, will become standard. This occurs because your approach to them may be ill timed. They may not be ready to tell you about their day when you pick them up from school. You can ask, but don’t push it.
There is a “fast food” style of communicating with your kids, and there is a “gourmet dinner” style of communicating. The fast food style lets them know you’re somewhat interested, but you’re not likely to learn much. Like fast food, these conversations require little preparation. They are over before you can say, “do you want fries with that”? And they aren’t really satisfying.
A “gourmet style” of communicating requires preparation. You have to plan ahead to set up the proper environment, i.e., time together for the purpose of being together. A father should plan an activity with his son or daughter that will last long enough that any tensions can dissolve, like a tough steak becoming tender with slow cooking. You have to be patient so the conversation can simmer. Some activities that allow simmering are a long car trip, camping, hiking, or just sitting on the front porch drinking tea on a summer's day.
You can talk about yourself and some of the issues you faced as a child. This will open their eyes to the fact they are not alone in how they feel or what happens to them. Like food, you can spice up the conversation by telling them about mistakes you made as a kid or adult. Or just ask them about the things they are interested in, especially if you know nothing about the topic. You can make it happen if you really want it to happen.
Some quick hints:
· Be there when they need you, even if it’s by phone. If at all possible, you should stop what you are doing.
· Be honest but open-minded. Don’t put them down.
· Really listen! Don’t interrupt.
· One on one talks works best.
· Don’t try to fix them right away. You may stop them too soon and miss something important.
· Keep an even tone if things come out that may upset you.
· Ask them how they think you can help. (Just listening has already helped them!)
· If the conversation leads to consequences they must face, let them happen. But remain positive and encouraging.
· Remember that you are being watched and imitated. Don’t be a hypocrite. If their bad activity mimics you, then you can’t be the one to help them until you help yourself.
· Not everything they tell you will need fixing. Some of it will be joy. Be joyful with and for them.
If you can share any hints or techniques about communicating with your children that have worked, please do so. Share your success!