Adults can easily turn our kids away from open conversation.
Now, doing this once in a while is part of life. We are busy and can’t always stop everything for someone else. Doing these things once in a while shouldn’t hurt the relationship communication too much.
However, habitual practice of these can definitely harm our kid’s desire to talk to us. When we really are too involved with something else, we can let our kids know what’s going on and promise to talk to them when we get a chance. And we need to come through on that promise.
When our children are upset, who do we want them to talk to? We will want them to talk to us! Unfortunately, some kids do not feel their parents are a safe place to go when they are upset, need to confide in someone, are in need of help, or are in danger. How we respond to our children can dictate whether they find us a safe place, and we want to be that safe place for them.
Here are a few reflection questions to think about. I encourage you not to get bogged down in parental guilt if we don’t do these things perfectly every time. Simply do your best in each situation that’s presented.
How do you respond when your kids have something to tell you or want to talk?
- Do we kill the conversation right away?
The three main ways we kill conversation right away are:
- Do we take over the conversation with our own thoughts or opinions?
- Do we take away their excitement with our negativity? Do we point out everything wrong with what they are saying?
- Do we shut down their feelings? We don’t have to agree with how our kids are feeling to acknowledge that they feel a certain way. We can respond with empathy and compassion, while helping our kids understand what emotions they feel, whether they match reality, and how to feel better.
- Is our communication conditional? Do we withhold conversation when we are disappointed? Sure, it’s healthy to take a break if we feel ourselves becoming overwhelmed, angry, or about to snap. But withholding ourselves when we aren’t pleased with someone who needs us, can show our communication is conditional to their ability to please us.
- What kind of questions do we ask? Open-ended questions invite more conversation.
- Are we mindful of what our kids need in the conversation? Sometimes kids just want to talk, without wanting us to solve their problems. Simply asking them, “Do you want to vent, or do you want help solving the problem?” shows them we care about what they want and that we are there for them in what they need.
- Do we share our own feelings once it is appropriate to do so? Overtaking the conversation with our own thoughts and feelings can shut our kids down from wanting to talk in the future.
- Do we respond in a way that will harm or foster our relationship? If kids come to expect a loving, empathetic response from us, they’ll be more likely to want to talk. If kids come to expect a hostile, angry, or uninterested response, they’ll be less likely to want to talk to us.
- What does our body language say? We can be open, assertive, aggressive, relaxed, uninterested, and disapproving all without saying a word.
Here are some examples of welcoming body language:
Talking with our hands
Holding a gaze
We want our kids to feel safe with us. We want them to know they can tell us anything. Therefore, it’s important for us to be cautious of how we respond when our kids want to talk to us.
By: Emily Scott, PhD
Articles you may also like: