As parents, we are all in this limbo of setting boundaries with our kids while also being open to their emotional side so that they actually talk to us about topics and issues they care about or are curious about themselves. It’s a balancing act of being their guide but also being approachable.
The fact is, we don’t always know how our kids are feeling, and instead of guessing and making assumptions, we can create several small moments of communication and connection. Try these 3 tips.
1. Be Ready for a Conversation Any Time or Place
We never know when our kids are going to bring up something that is on their mind. In fact, sometimes our best conversations happen in strange places or during times we wouldn’t expect.
- Car rides
- The bathroom
- While cooking
I think the key is that kids want to talk casually without pressure from us to open up. My son talks more openly when it comes from casual conversation in a relaxed environment, and there is less pressure. When I have had a “we need to talk” conversation (and believe me, those still happen when necessary), he listens and participates, but it’s a different feel. When kids have times they feel they can talk about nothing, those are the times we learn their most important thoughts and ideas, and being open to these in unexpected places or times is one of the best ways to connect.
2. Get Creative- Written Conversation
There are ways to be creative when we “talk” with our kids. This idea is to create a fun way to use writing called an Interactive Journal.
a) Get a journal or notebook. Let your child help pick it out, decorate it, and get colored pens or a fun pen that is only used for this journal.
b) Brainstorm ideas or use the ones below to get you started.
- something good in your day
- a story that you start and your child adds on to
- jokes or riddles to each other
- draw pictures to finish or add on to
- write about your child’s best qualities
- just “talk” about anything at all
- something you can plan together (a dinner, an activity, a craft)
c) Decide where you will keep it on a bedside table, under a pillow, or in a central location.
d) Write back and forth to each other every day and deliver it at a designated time. You write at night, he/she finds it in the morning.
One detail – I caution you on is to avoid saying to your child to use the journal when she or he “needs it.” This creates a heaviness to the journal, and your child may feel pressure about the need for writing in it being big enough to be worthy of the journal. It should be fun and become a habit between you and your child so that when there are more serious topics she/he wants to bring up to you, she/he can write about it with less pressure than saying it out loud.
3. Learn Your Child’s Love Language
Gary Chapman developed the idea in The 5 Love Languages of Children, and it is eye-opening to discover your child’s way of feeling connected and loved by you, which is another way to communicate. Also, there are many online quizzes for children ages: 5-8, 9-12, and teens. Knowing my son’s Love Language has been such a gift because I’m able to tap into his language every day to help him feel seen and understood. I know that on days when I haven’t connected in his language are often the days where we have the most conflict or disconnection. Make it a goal to do something in your child’s Love Language each day and watch the communication and connection between you grow.
5 Love Languages of Children- Ideas to Try
- Words of Affirmation– verbal compliments, slip a positive note in their lunch, send a text, actively listen without judgement, praise them in front of others
- Acts of Service– help clean their room, make a special meal, tuck them in a bed, bring them a drink, help lay out their clothes, organize their closet.
- Physical touch – give hugs or high fives, cuddle, and read a story, scratch their back, comb, or do their hair in a special way, hold hands, manicure or pedicure.
- Gifts– make their favorite treat, give a “just because” gift, do a treasure or scavenger hunt with a prize, plan a special day doing what your child loves.
- Quality Time– give undivided attention, do chores together, go on a bike ride, do a craft together, do a hobby together, make a snack or meal together.
Here’s the deal, we’re not all perfect parents, and there are going to be those days when we miss the mark completely. There are days where I do all the things right, and there is still conflict or a disconnect. There are days when I don’t do the right things. The point is it’s not about being a perfect parent. The most important thing we can do is to keep going and figure out what works for our child and family.
Our kids want to communicate with us, but they don’t always know how or even what they’re feeling themselves. When we create moments of connection, it opens up new ways to communicate our support and love.