This was the title for the homeschool seminar. I hoped I’d be spurred by this seminar to learn more helpful approaches in talking with my girls. It gets more difficult as they get older: they have an increased awareness of how they don’t see things as their parents, they are increasingly aware of our imperfections, and becoming more aware of their increasing independence. So it isn’t always easy to have an open conversation.
The pointers were clear:
- Don’t have confidential discussions in front of other siblings – your children need to know that you will not be talking about them.
- Create space, a no-electronic space time, where you and yours are free to talk. Often in the car. To an extracurricular. Or after everyone is in bed. When you are about to head to bed, usually then.
- Ask at dinner what their high was for their day, and what their low was for the day. Don’t let them get away with “school was the low, iPad was the high”. The more they share, the more they learn to identify their feelings and engage them.
- Muse aloud, “I wonder why…” thoughts. Or muse aloud, “I’m grateful for…” or “I wonder if it’s the best way…” They might join in on some solid discussions.
- Share with them your thoughts “I used to think…but now I think…” They’ll come to understand that thoughts can change, there might be more than one way to think about something, and that you will consider a new way of thinking, possibly theirs.
- And when you do share your convictions, be gentle. A compassionate conviction can be shared when considering others’ feelings. Judgment away, gentleness present.
- Ask your kids their opinions. “Why do you think teens drink?”, “Why do you think movies have so much sexually explicit content?”, “Do you agree with…”, “Do you agree with how I handled that?”, “What is your opinion on…”
- Be mindful of your facial expressions and body language, your speech, and your choice of words, but most definitely your tone. Tone accounts for almost 40% of your communication. Practice in front of the mirror: watch your expressions. Those frown lines were grown honestly. Learn to breathe slowly for a count of four, before expressing your opinion.
- Be careful how you respond to their opinions. Consider saying, “Hadn’t thought about that before…”, “Hmm not sure I agree but I can see where you’re coming from…” If kids are always told what they have to think, then they will partner later in life with the same expectation.
- Kids aren’t always wanting to connect, so insist they have conversations with you, meaningful conversations. But in my experience, not forcefully. Get creative. Come in through the back door, not the front.
- And most of all remember: any form of contempt shuts them down. A real place of curiosity and support open them to you, the parent of influence.