Communication is the foundation of any successful relationship, be it personal or professional, and yet we often neglect the importance of it when it comes to raising our children.
I would like to share a few tips on communication that may help parents to talk, listen and hopefully understand their children better.
Ask action questions
My daughter is a colourful and vibrant child and can tell a story in great detail. When she tells me a story, I will ask her an occasional action question. Who was there? What did they say? What happened next? By doing this, she feels heard and it shows that I am interested in the whole story and that she has my full attention. In turn it allows me to remain engaged in the conversation and to focus on what the message is that she is trying to get across. Far too often I see parents listening while typing on their phones, giving an occasional acknowledgement, or 'sorry what was that again...’ Having been guilty of this myself, I am mindful that if our children experience this on a too regular basis, they might stop sharing with us altogether.
Keep the communication channels open
One thing we do want to ensure is that we keep the communication channels open. We cannot neglect to listen in the early years and then expect our kids to open up to us when they reach the teenage phase - it might be too late. We want them to know that they can come to us at any time and that we will be there no matter what. There will be times that their situation might seem trivial to us, but it could be the very thing that consumes their world. If they have grown used to chatting to us about the small things, they might feel comfortable sharing the 'big' ones too.
Seize those 'in between' moments
I find that I have the best conversations with my daughter when we're driving to and from school, baking a cake, cleaning the pool, feeding the dogs, during bath time or at bed time. It's during these 'casual' moments that children tend to open up and share what's on their minds and not so much when you're sitting opposite each other face to face and having a more 'formal' conversation. Through the business of our everyday life, we need to optimise these moments. Teenagers will be less likely to talk to you out of their own, therefore we as parents need to look for, or even create windows of opportunity and make sure to seize them.
Listening is so much more than hearing; it is active and focused in order to understand what your child is trying to tell you. If we actively listen to our children, we have less chance of misunderstanding and misinterpreting their ideas and words. This includes listening to their body language. Your child’s facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture and tone of voice will speak far louder than their words.
Try to do the following:
• Let your child know you are listening.
• When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
• Express interest in what they are saying without being intrusive.
• Listen to their point of view, even if it's difficult to hear.
• Let them complete their point before you respond.
Ultimately, I feel we can only communicate effectively if we build a relationship with our children, know how to listen to their hearts and allow Christ to be the mediator.
About the author
Melanie is married to MC and live in the Eastern Cape where she is an active consultant and facilitator of Evergreen Parenting. She is a public speaker for Evergreen Parenting and present various Parenting Talks, seminars, courses and workshops in the Eastern Cape as well as other parts of South Africa.
She is a feisty yet gentle woman, her passion and energy is contagious.