As your children grow up and take in the world around them, they will ask innumerable questions, and they will be curious about many things. They will want to explore, try stuff out and maybe even get into spots of serious and not-so serious trouble. As the parent, it’s your job to arm them with the necessary information so that they can make proper decisions and choices.
Later in this piece we will look at how to approach a conversation with your child, but first here are a few ideas about what kinds of things you can bring up in order to generate healthy conversations and open the line of communication. Check out Aha Parenting! for a more comprehensive list.
- Ask your child questions about themselves, what they like, what they don’t like, what makes them happy, what makes them angry etc.
- What kind of things are they interested in? What kind of things do they search the Internet for? This is a great way of bringing up the issue of online safety and the dangers of chatting to strangers. Use this conversation to surf the net together. You could also do some research on great informational websites like quib.ly, so that you can steer your kids towards child safe websites. If you are at a loss for answers, and need some guidance, you are bound to find what you need on quib.ly, or a similar site. If you don’t find the answer then the question is probably not worth asking.
- Ask them how they feel about bullying, or how their friends are doing and how their teachers treat them in class.
- Ask them how they feel about their siblings (if they have any) what they love the most about their family and what they wish could be different. You would be surprised at how much you might learn about yourself seen through the eyes of a child.
- Ask them if they know the difference between right and wrong.
- Take their favorite animated character and ask them why it’s their favorite. You might even be able to use this character as a role model for your child. If your daughter loves Rapunzel, explain how Rapunzel has a sweet and kind heart and is always nice to people.
- If you have a blended family, ask your child questions about how they feel about their stepparent and siblings. Try to draw out their feelings towards them and how they really feel.
- Talk about emotions like being angry, being happy, or being excited. Discuss how emotions should be expressed.
You need to interact through open and honest conversations. It can be hard for parents to talk about certain things, like sex or drugs, and equally awkward for children to listen to this. But as a parent you need to find a way to overcome these barriers and develop an easy rapport with your child in order to build a meaningful relationship with them.
The best and perhaps easiest way of starting a conversation is by asking a question. Or if your child has asked you a question; answer it and build upon it with follow up questions of your own. These conversations are a great way of improving yourself, helping your child and improving the family dynamic of the environment at home.
Some communication tips to keep in mind while having conversations with your child:
- Listen to what they have to say, make them feel like an important contributor;
- Take their opinions into account, don’t dismiss it or give it no value because of their age;
- Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from;
- Convers through role play games;
- Be loving and patient but firm;
- Don’t lie to them and don’t make things up. The truth might be hard to hear but they’ll appreciate it more in the long run and will be more likely to trust you;
- Be sensitive about their feelings and take their age into consideration. If you are trying to explain to your five year old why grandma died, be gentle about it but be honest. Try to steer clear of ‘gone on vacation’ stories because it only serves to delay the inevitable and confuses your child.
As you start to have these open conversations and develop a closer relationship based on trust and honesty, the harder topics like sex, drugs and alcohol, will come more easily and can be naturally weaved into conversations.
At the end of the day, just remember that you have nothing to fear, so don’t be scared of talking to your kids!