Oh, talking. What a tangled web that can be.
I don't mean talking with your friends. For the most part, that's easy. Talking with coworkers, that can be a bit challenging - but nothing like getting your kids to open up to you. For some reason, children begin to view their parents as the enemy shortly after beginning their schooling, and the opportunities that you have to enjoy open and honest conversations about the things that may be on their minds simply vanish. Especially as the kids get older, they confide in their parents less and less.
What's a parent to do?
Many parents give up on the extended communication, vowing to let their child come to them when the time is right. I'm not such a big proponent of that. I think that we need to meet our children more than half way - in fact, I venture to say that we need to expend about 90% of the effort in the relationship. Asking your child to sit down and chat with you, though - can you feel me shaking my head "no" right about now? When those big questions come, most kids clam up and shut down. The face to face approach almost always results in a big, dead silence and avoided eye contact. Instead, here are some of my best methods to getting my kids to open up.
- Go for coffee or breakfast - or lunch - Often what can't be said over the table at home, or as your daughter is jumping out of the car on the way to school, can easily be discussed over a cup of fancy coffee. I know that my own children feel like big shots when I take them out to breakfast or lunch one on one. It can be a great ice breaker to sit at the table in a coffee shop with a blended drink and a muffin.
- Cook together - when you are cooking, you are focused on something else, and it takes away the "Deer in a headlights" look that many kids seem to get when you open a conversation. Ask your teen to help you make cookies, and often, the conversation can just take on a life of its own.
- Talk in the car - again, it's the best way to have a conversation that can be a little intense. If your focus is on the road, it's not on your child's face, and that can allow your child to open up and ask those difficult questions.
- Text - This is trite, but it's really true. Often we can say things via text message that we might not have the courage to say with our voice. Tell your child that he can always send you a text if he can't find the words, and you'll be surprised at how opften your notifications will buzz.
How do you make sure the lines of communication stay open between you and your kids?