Conversations with Your Children

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Being a parent during this generation can be as rewarding as it can be challenging.  As society evolves and the family unit is redefined and increases in diversity, as a parent, it is important to think about what kind of relationship you would like to have with your child, what kind of communication you would want with your child, and how discipline will be integrated in a healthy manner.

Effective communication with your child will facilitate a healthy bond and foster self-confidence within your child.  Communicating effectively with your child will deliver a message to your child that it is possible to be open and forthright about difficult topics.  This is true especially during the adolescent years, as during this stage of their development, their body is changing, their brain is changing, and their emotions are intensified.  As a parent with an adolescent, it is vital to have open dialogue in order to be able to discuss challenging topics and taboo subjects.  Expanding on the skill of effectively communicating with your child will provide safety and trust for your child.  This will increase the probabilities that your child will choose to go to you when a challenge arises in their lives.

The following are simple ways you can start effective and healthy communication with your child:

  1. Use “open-ended” questions versus “close-ended” questions:
    1. For example, “How was your day?” is a “close-ended” question that will usually generate a one-word answer such as, “good” or “fine”.  This type of question will create roadblocks for further conversation.  Instead, you can start practicing “open-ended” questions such as, “Tell me about your favorite part of your day”.  This type of question will provide an invitation for your child to have a conversation about his/her and will decrease the probability of one-word answers.  It will elicit more detail and your child will receive the message that you as a parent truly care about what goes on in his/her life.
  2. Practice active listening:
    1. As a parent, there may be times you believe that what you say or what you believe is the answer to whatever conflict arises with your child.  This can create impediment in having an open mind to listen to your child’s point of view.  Active listening will invite opportunity for your child to express his/her feelings and there may be times you will be surprised at what they feel or think.  When using active listening, listen to every word your child is saying along with observing his/her body language.  This combination will give you a lot of information.  Also, paraphrase what your child says.  This will send your child the message that you’re paying attention and/or it will allow opportunity for correction.
  3. Use “I” statements:
    1. “I” statement will allow you as a parent to express your feelings without blaming your child for your mood/emotion.  For example, “I feel nervous when you don’t call me because I don’t know where you are.”  This is different from, “When you don’t call me it makes me nervous.”  The second statement implies more of a blame stance on your emotion and that is not what you want to convey to your child.  You want to be able to express yourself freely while at the same time getting the message across to your child.  This will model to your child how to take responsibility for emotions while describing a situation.

Parenting in this generation can be challenging.  With cell phones, tablets, and internet, it’s easy for children to isolate into their virtual world and not have communication with their parents.  However, it is equally probable that as a parent, when you practice the above, your child will likely feel secure and confident in his/her ability to come to you and talk about whatever is on his/her mind.

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