Little kids are chatty and inquisitive…right? They question everything – no topic is off limits. When our children are young we talk with them about relationships and friendships. We answer all their questions about their bodies, about private parts and personal space. As they head off to school the discussions change to bullying and peer pressure. We lay the groundwork while they are young in the hope that as they grow up they will, (a) know they can always come and talk with us about anything, and (b) will have a good foundation of knowledge to form their own opinions. That’s the plan…until our chatty and inquisitive kids grow up and the chatter slows down, the questions are fewer and we start to feel a little disconnected from our t’weens and pre-teens.
If communication is the key to any successful relationship, how can we maintain healthy and successful relationships with our kids? It really isn’t all that complicated.
There are little cues that we miss every single day. We put out cues that aren’t picked up all the time. The sigh that no one comments on, the sideways glance that no one notices. Sometimes our kids are throwing out cues that we need to stop and take the time to respond to. When my daughter asked if I wanted to walk to school with her the other day, I easily could have said, “No, I’ve got a deadline this morning,” instead I said “sure.” That walk lead to a conversation, it wasn’t earth shattering, but it was a connection we made. We miss these cues all the time. Keep your eyes and ears open for the cues your child might be sending out and don’t miss those little opportunities to connect.
Nope, I don’t mean stalk your tweens…that might backfire. Find out what your child is “in to” and check it out. If your kid spends time online, find out what apps they are using, what games they are playing and try them out for yourself. The online world is gigantic and filled with endless possibilities for kids. Find out how your child is spending her time and learn about it, join her conversation. If your kid isn’t into online activities, but would rather spend time reading, writing or playing an instrument take an interest.
Remember when you were a kid and you watched a television show that sparked a conversation with your friends and family? I totally remember those moments. In our house right now, the show Glee is prompting a lot of interesting and intelligent conversations. If you have a curious tween at home, Glee on Netflix, is a great entry into discussions about LGBTQ, bullying, body image, peer pressure, cliques and much more. Let your child control the remote, make a pile of popcorn and watch a show together…see where the conversation leads you.
At times it can be so much easier to express ourselves in on paper? I love Thriving Parents’ idea of starting a journal with your child. This is an open invitation for your child to write whatever they like in the journal and you to respond. Imagine the depth of a conversation that could be shared in a journal.
Often times we sit back and wait for our kids to come to us. Yes, they need their independence and their personal space. However, if your instincts are telling you that something is going on and you are concerned, don’t be afraid to ask. Leave the judgmental tone behind and ask “How are you doing, today?” Maybe your questions are met in a casual brush off, but what if they start an important discussion?
If you are feeling disconnected from your child, then plan an outing together. Make it a surprise or plan the date together. Spend the time reconnecting in an environment that is comfortable and relaxed. Even a simple walk around the block is an opportunity to open the lines of communication.