How do we create safe, open, and effective conversations with our children?
How do we let them know that they can come to us with anything—from a failing grade to a teenage crush to a potential bully?
How do we prepare them to stand up for their rights, take on conflict, and voice their opinions?
As parents, we can help our children grow into healthy communicators by showing up as their first model for effective communication.
The first ingredient to building safe, reliable, and healthy communication in your home is TRUST.
Building TRUST in your communication with your children starts with telling the TRUTH. You don’t always have to have an answer for all of their questions. Show your children that you’re also curious, nervous, unsure, or even scared. Be OK with telling your child, “Mommy, doesn’t know the answer to this question, but can we Google this together?” or “Daddy gets upset about the news sometimes, too.” Even with your reluctant talkers, your best non-verbal communication is being present with your children. Take a few minutes to just sit with them as they are playing their favorite video game or even take a quiet walk around the block.
The second ingredient to effective communication is to be authentic.
We know as adults that conversations aren’t always a straight line from a problem to a solution. Begin each conversation by letting your kids know that you will hear them out and not judge what they have to share. You might disagree or even be angry with their communication, but reassure them that their voice will he heard and respected.
Some good phrases to practice with your children in conversation are as follows:
- “I heard you say [XYZ].”
- “In my experience of this conversation, I heard the following…”
- “Thank you for letting me know that you felt this way.”
Sometimes even the most well-intentioned conversations can be loud and heated or contentious and complicated—and we have to acknowledge that those kinds of passionate conversations can be scary for our children.
We owe it to our kids to let them know that even messy conversations can be productive and beneficial. Tweet
A loud discussion doesn’t always mean that the other speaker is upset—it could simply mean that the speaker is passionate about the topic at hand. Give your children space to fully express what they are saying.
Some good phrases for a passionate discussion are as follows:
- “I can hear that you are really excited about this. Can you tell me more?”
- “I know we don’t have a solution to this right now and that’s probably disappointing, but we can we look at this differently together?”
- “It’s OK to be upset right now. Are you willing to talk more about this right now or can we come back to this later?”
Your communication with your children doesn’t have to be “right” or “perfect”—your children simply need to know that they can TRUST you to be open and tell the truth. When you show up authentically with your children, you will give them permission to do the same.
Feature image courtesy of Unsplash, Jason Rosewell.