Kids today are busier than ever – school and homework, hockey practice, music lessons, hanging out with friends...so when they slow down long enough to talk to you, what can you do to ensure you get the most out of your conversations?
Here are a few tricks that will keep them coming back for more chats.
- Ease up a little: Offer your child choices to give him a sense of control. But keep the choices simple: “Do you want to go see a movie or go to the baseball game?”. It avoids conflict and sets up the opportunity to talk more.
- Honesty is the best policy: No matter how old they are, children deserve straightforward answers – it helps them learn to trust. When you don’t do that, the tendency is for children to supply explanations, which can be more frightening than the truth.
- Use your ears: Teens in particular just want you to listen to what they have to say – so listen and resist the temptation to lecture. You can ask if your teenager wants advice, but don’t assume it’s always needed – and if they say “No”, then leave it.
- Patience, please!: It can feel like forever before a youngster gets his story out, while teens can talk around an issue before coming to the point. By waiting patiently, you’re letting them know that they’re worth your time.
- Let your love shine: Use words that express your love. “Thank-you for....” and “I appreciate it when you...” These are the phrases that show your children how much you care. In the long run, that’s the biggest trick of all to keeping the lines of communication open!
How well do you know your kids and teens?
Answer each of these questions with yes or no. When you are done, count up the number of “no’s” you have – then check our answer guide below.
- Do you know who your children’s best friends are?
- Do you monitor what your child watches on TV?
- Do you oversee the web sites your children visit online?
- Do you know how much junk food your child eats?
- Would you know if your child is being bullied or teased at school?
- 0 or 1 NO = great communication skills
- 1 or 2 NO’s = you know them pretty well — is there a question you’re not asking?
- 2 or 3 NO’s = take a few minutes each day and check in with them
- 3 or 4 NO’s = sit down together and devote some time to communicating
- 4 or 5 NO’s = it’s time rebuild your communications skills with your children