Today, we talked about "shifting gears" and learning how to have conversations with your kids.
- We parents are constantly interrogating and supervising our kids. Doesn't leave much room for a conversation or a "real" relationship of "give and take". We're so busy keeping them alive and shuttling them around that the "relationship" part gets shoved to the side.
- Sit down with Susie and Sam individually and let them know that you'll be asking for 5 (or 4 or 3) minutes of their undivided attention every day to have a "chat". Make a decision as to "when" it will happen...in the car after school, before homework, just before bed. If one time frame doesn't work, switch to another. Be flexible.
- In terms of the time frame, keep to your agreement. DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT exceed the time limit. Trust will be broken. I've bought some chunky, colorful "sand clocks" (aka "hour glasses") with a variety of "times" associated with them from 2 to 10 minutes to help kids in my practice to "visualize time". Very helpful.
- Understand that from middle school on, kids want privacy and they start restricting "sharing" with you. They are growing physically and socially and they are moving away from you. The last thing they want is some big ol' hairy discussion with you every day of their lives. So, structure it to the question-and-answer format that you have already, but make the questions open-ended and make them about school or sports to whatever familiar topics are "safe".
- You know how it goes...Mom: "How was school?" Kid: "Fine". Mom: "What did you learn?" Kid: "Nothing". So, give the questions below a "go".
- What was the best part of your day?
- Who helped you? Who did you help? (Or, "Who was nice to you?", "Who were you nice to?")
- Anything happen to disappoint, frustrate you, make you mad, you thought was unfair, unexpected?
- What can you to do make tomorrow better?
Accept their answers with very limited follow up. Reflect their feelings. In other words, be a mirror to the emotions they may have had..."Well, THAT had to feel rough..."
Don't try to fix it. Most of the time, kids just want to vent or be heard.
Moms, this is for us. We are the Goddesses of Language. A gazillion years ago, we were all living in caves. The men went out hunting. They had the strength to bring home the food and developed the motor planning and visual skills we still see today. We girls were in the caves with the babies...nothing new there. When babies vocalized, we responded. We developed a relative strength in language and we use it waaaayyyy too much. Learn to tolerate the silence. (Reference the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, please!!) Monitor your talking. Over-talking is off-putting to teens. Really, really, off-putting. They tune us out really fast.
The goal here is to teach our kids to have conversations with us. When the "Big Ticket" issues roll in (driving, sex, substance use), you want to be seen by your child as the RAN parent. Receptive, Approachable and Non-judgmental. They will have a lot of positive experiences talking with you after a few weeks. Work through their resistance by limiting the questions to one or two. Eventually, these "Q and As" will take on a conversational tone.
Tailor to your child's personality and tolerances. You get the idea. Make it as goofy and fun as possible without losing credibility.
It's never too late to start. Keep up the good work and TTFN!