Communication is a tricky thing. It has its own academic field, after all. Navigating family communication can be particularly challenging. You expect it to come naturally. But then it doesn’t. There are pitfalls all around. What if you’re struggling to talk to your child? Or, what if he or she is reluctant to open up? Or, what if you just seem to have more difficulty talking to one of your children as compared to another?
Communication Key 1: Unplug
Parents, we need to model disconnecting from media. Screens are great. I love my technology as much as the next person. But overdoing screen time drains our focus and energy for face to face communication. We want to have open lines of communication with our kids. We know that when they glue their eyes to a screen, communication isn’t very good. We can set a positive example. Then we can invite our kids to join us away from the screen.
Communication Key 2: Initiate
One of my friends marks regular walks with his dad as a major turning point in his life. At a time when his faith was precarious, his dad insisted they take regular walks together. He didn’t really want to do it at the time. But his dad wouldn’t take no for an answer. The Lord significantly used those walks . If you belong to Jesus, it’s because your Heavenly Father initiated toward you (Ephesians 2:1). In the same way, we need to initiate toward our kids.
Communication Key 3: Ask
My wife asks wonderful questions. She asks questions that my kids can’t wait to answer. They can’t help themselves! Her questions provoke expression. Our kids get to tell us their opinions, how they feel, and what’s on their mind. Sometimes all a kid needs is an opportunity. Plenty of opportunities to converse with us when they’re young will develop into habits likely to continue as they get older.
Communication Key 4: Listen
We all need to be heard. Our children are no exception. Sure, some of them are extroverts, and others are introverts. But they all find tremendous pleasure in being heard. We need to make sure that we’re listening actively. Repeat back what they’ve told you in your own words to make sure you’ve understood them. Like everyone else, your kids will know if you’re tuning them out (no, you aren’t the only one guilty of doing that).
Communication Key 5: Persevere
Let’s face it, many factors can stifle communication between parents and children. Sometimes it can be really difficult. You feel rejected. You feel like your child would rather talk with anyone else but you. Don’t give up. The truth is that your child needs to talk to you. Friends, teachers, and pastors are important. But your child’s relationship with you is the most important. Since you love your child, don’t ever stop trying to engage them in conversation.
What other things have you found helpful to open lines of communication with kids? How about with your parents?