STRATEGIES TO HAVE YOUR KID TALK TO YOU
Most children cannot stop talking when they are in preschool. In elementary school, many start to clam up with their parents. Once in high school, only 22% still talk openly to their parents about their personal issues. But, there are strategies to have your child talk to you.
Here are a few of them:
1. Ask non-judgmental and open-ended questions to open conversation. For instance, instead of asking how school was today, say to your child “What was the best thing about school today?” or “How did the soccer game go at recess?” Use questions that start with why cautiously as these questions often make children defensive. Say “What makes you say that?” instead of “Why did you say that?”
2. Refrain from jumping in with solutions and advice. First, children need to vent whatever they are experiencing, then they need to get a chance to figure out their own solutions. This contributes to develop their self-confidence. Our role is to help them reflect on their own feelings and brainstorm solutions.
3. Be aware of the way you initiate contact. Our children are often very busy between school, homework, and after school activities. Once they reach puberty, the hormones kick in and parents can go low on their list. It is often because they take us for granted and know they can rely on us. So, when you would like to spend time with your child, use “I statements” that help you express your wishes. For instance, say “Next weekend, I would like us to do some activities together. How about going to the park or to the museum? What do you think?” instead of saying “You never ask me to do anything together these days”.
4. Stay available. When you are ready to talk does not mean that your child is. When children feel a pressure to talk, they clam up. If as a parent, you are a good listener and make yourself available when your child is ready to talk, then they will open up when something is on their mind. Simply being in the same room and doing something such as folding the laundry together or cooking a meal may create an opportunity to start a conversation.
By focusing on your child’s emotional needs and making yourself available in a non-judgmental way, your child is likely to come talk to you about what is happening with her.
GIVING UP THE FANTASY OF THE PERFECT HOLIDAY
Most of us wish to give our children a fairy-tale holiday. Seeing our child’s face shining with joy is our biggest reward. But wanting to give our children the perfect holiday is a fantasy. Sometimes, it is driven by the hope that we will make up for the times we have not been ideal parents. Or maybe our yearn is rooted in our own childhood when we felt lonely or hurt. The holidays can be a magical time, but cooking, decorating, and buying presents are not the only ingredients needed to be happy.
Here are a few resources to spend happy and enjoyable holidays for everyone in the family:
1. Ditch the guilt. Even if you planned everything early, there will be always a last minute change or something that goes wrong. This is perfectly normal. Remember that to be happy, your child does not need a present she wants, but that you cannot afford. What your child needs is real love that cannot be bought. Deep love is expressed through time spent together, sharing activities, listening to her, and understanding her emotional needs.
2. Do not make up for not being a perfect parent. No one is. What matters is to be authentic to your child, to model graciously an imperfect human being, to apologize when it is necessary as it will show her the right path when she misbehaves. Give her unconditional love no matter what. You may disapprove her words and actions at times, but never who she is. This is truly the most beautiful gift you can offer to your child for the holidays and throughout the year.
3. Give your child time. With our busy schedules, most of us do not spend as much time as we would like with our children. So, take the opportunity of the holidays to catch up. Children spell love with the letters time. Be fully present with your child and she will remember this time with you for the rest of her life.
4. Let life be as it is. Give yourself permission to let go of perfection and just be yourself. Real holidays mean dealing with cranky children, messy kitchens, and botched recipes. This is part of life. Remember that joy comes from appreciating the wonder disguised in the moments of our everyday life. By offering your emotional generosity every chance you get, you give your child plenty of opportunities to be happy and to build memories she will be fond of later in life.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.