Communication is the foundation for relationships
We communicate in different ways with different people. We communicate differently with our colleagues than with our partner, for example. The child/parent relationship is different again. It would be inappropriate for us to share our innermost thoughts and fears with our children, but we do want them to be able to open up to us. How can we encourage them to do this?
Trust, time, care
Trust is essential for deep, authentic communication to flourish. We won’t open ourselves up to someone we don’t trust. Conversely, the people we share with on the deepest level are the people we trust the most. We know that they won’t hurt us, break a confidence, laugh at our fears, or manipulate us. Our children need to trust us, or they will not share with us. If we can raise their confidence in us and allow them to talk to us now, when the issues are small, they will have confidence to talk to us when the issues get bigger, and they really need our help.
We also need to give them time to open up, and to know that we care about them.
Today’s challenge is to talk about something with your children that needs to be discussed (this might be a challenge to do with each child separately). The very first challenge was spending some time listening – today is all about two-way communication. The idea is to talk together about something: to put across your view, and to listen to your child’s.
Whatever topic you choose, pick a suitable time and place. Perhaps you could go for a walk, go fishing, bring up your chosen topic at the meal table, in the car, on the way to school, or in their bedroom . . . whatever you think would be best.
Most of us have topics we know we really ought to deal with, but have been putting off. At this point something may already have come to mind that you know you need to talk about . . . that is almost certainly the subject you need to broach today! In case nothing springs to mind, here are some ideas of topics you might like to talk about:
A family matter.
A school issue.
A problem with behaviour.
The facts of life.
Keeping safe on the internet.
Something about church or their spiritual life.
And there are so many more! Anything you may have been avoiding talking about . . . today is your day! You might prefer to talk about a really simple issue, but let me encourage you not to pass up this opportunity to bring up a subject you know you should broach.
Jesus said whatever needed to be said in just the right manner. To those who needed a gentle word, he spoke gently. He blessed, rebuked and encouraged, warned, inspired and always spoke the truth. At times he was angry, particularly with those who not only refused to listen, but tried to stop others listening, too. To be like Jesus is our aim! Still, while we’re getting there, here are some tips for good communication:
Decide on the outcome you want to achieve before you start. For example, do you want your children to know how ill grandma is, and be able to talk about how they feel about that to you?
Show that you want to talk and listen, by your body language.
Be tactful, especially if it’s a tricky topic to handle.
Keep your tone of voice calm and cheerful, if you can. If you can sound caring, rather than accusing or judgemental, you are more likely to get a good response.
Be open to new ideas – you never know, your children might have an interesting new take on an issue, or help you to understand something better.
Listen to what your children have to say about your chosen topic. Reflect back what they have said, to make sure you have understood their point of view.
Make sure you understand what they are trying to say, even if they aren’t expressing it in quite the right way. Ask questions if you’re not sure.
Be encouraging. Try to avoid being scathing, sarcastic, forceful or aggressive.
If your child starts to moan or whine, or speak to you disrespectfully, stop them gently but firmly, and ask them to use a different tone of voice.
And absolutely don’t let them overhear you telling your friends what they said. If they do, it might be a long time before they talk to you again.
Doing our best
Some of you will breeze through today’s challenge! Others of you might have to take a big gulp and be bold and brave. If this is you, well, just have a go. The best thing you can do is to practice – to just do it, then keep doing it, and realise that although many times you may seem to fumble around the issue and get all your words wrong, it’s all a step in the learning curve of life!
But my teenagers only grunt . . .
All I can say is, do your best. You may be surprised how much is going in when you talk. Exasperating it may be, but don’t give up, because although the teen years seem to last forever, they don’t, and it’s great to be still talking to them when they come out the other side!
Over to you!
Decide what it is you would like to talk about with each of your children, and what outcome you want to achieve.
Choose a suitable time and place.
Write in your notebook everything you think/feel about this issue, and how you will broach the subject.
Let us know how it went Come over to the Christian Parenting Challenge facebook page!
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15
For the Future:
Try to keep communicating. When something crops up that you would like to talk about . . . take a deep breath and just do it!