Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your children. But parenting is hard work and maintaining a good connection with children can be challenging, especially since parents are dealing with many other pressures.
Here are some tips to consider…
Notice times when your children are most likely to talk (at bed time or when you are taking them somewhere, at dinner time, etc.) and then start a conversation.
You cannot have an important conversation with your child when the TV is on. Turn the TV and cell phone off.
Initiate conversations by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversation with a question.
Listen to your children’s point of view even if it is difficult to hear. You don’t need to agree but you must listen and try to understand them.
Don’t create a recurring pattern of being too critical of your children. They will tune you out and stop listening to you.
Let your child know that you care about what’s happening in their lives. Pay attention to your child’s interests- their favorite music, TV shows, books, their activities, etc.
Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.
Express your opinion without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it’s okay to disagree.
Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say, “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”
Focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own during your conversation.
Talk to your children–don’t lecture, criticize, threaten, or say hurtful things
Kids learn from their own choices. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don’t feel you have to always step in.
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.
Ask your children what they may want or need from you in a conversation, such as advice, simply listening, help in dealing with feelings, or help solving a problem.
Kids learn by imitating. Most often, they will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, solve problems, and work through difficult feelings.
Several countries around the world celebrate children’s day to honor their nation’s children. United Nations’ recommendation for a ‘Universal Children’s Day’ is on November 20th; India coincides its celebration of children with the birth date of its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, on November 14th. I feel blessed to honor children through my work, all 365 days of the year!
As a family therapist, if I were asked to describe the transformation process of therapy in simple terms, I would say that it is nurturing our human ability to get in touch with our ‘inner child’ – the natural ability to be in the moment and present, the power of experiencing sheer joy for no apparent reason, the unexpected candor, the unconditional spontaneity, the boundless curiosity, the guileless simplicity, the timeless wonder, the unbridled imagination, the trust in endless possibilities, the state of ingenuousness, and natural transparency in thought, emotion and action.
So as we claim the responsibility to promote and advocate for the welfare of children, our most important worldwide asset, let us make a personal commitment to access and celebrate the child within us, heal and grow from the inside, learn to be authentic & trusting and unshackle ourselves from the chains of ‘busy-ness’ & unnecessary cynicism!
Did you know that in 1913, Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for literature? A painter, playwright, poet, composer, novelist, author, AND international traveler, he was primarily an individual way ahead of his time! His following quote is the one that deeply resonates with me. He said (and I try to remember this daily, particularly in my role as a parent), “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
Even the most well-intentioned and thoughtful parent tends to forget that (s)he can never really walk in the shoes of his or her child. It was true for us as children; it is still true today for us as parents and will remain true tomorrow. This is a simple fact that needs to be comprehended fully. Each one of us is blessed with our own set of cumulative experiences that make us who we are today – every event, every memory, every perception, every story and every moment. No two individuals are identical; not even identical twins, who share the same genetic make-up.
Many “good parents” fall into the trap of believing that their adult children should learn from their mistakes. But can they really? Can we package “good decisions” and hand them over to our children? Can we protect them from mistakes, errors in judgment, pain, grief, disappointment, anger, regret, and loss? Maybe we should find a way to protect them from us!