Welcome back to Top 5 Tuesdays. I hope the summer is going well for everyone, offering at least a little rest and relaxation with friends and family.
Today’s topic is communication, with a focus on youth of course.
Here are 5 keys to communicating well with your children/the kids you work with, regardless of their age…
1. Be a listener – the main skill required in effective listening is learning to turn off your own desire to speak. In order to really listen to children (and adults…), you must focus on what they are trying to communicate. Ask questions that help clarify what they are saying, reflect what you think they are saying back to them to see if it is accurate, and respond only once you have received confirmation from them that you have understood. A huge challenge faced in relationship is assumptions that are acted upon regardless of their accuracy. Be sure you have a good understanding before you choose a response. Listening well is difficult – work hard at it.
2. Be respectful – no one likes to feel they do not have anything of value to offer. If what you have to say is laughed at, shot down, not taken seriously, etc., you will quickly learn not only to keep things to yourself, but to distance yourself from the person not taking you seriously. You will disengage, and look for affirmation elsewhere. Your children are no different. If you want to have a relationship with them in which they are open with you, you must be respectful to what they are saying. This does not mean you cannot challenge them on thoughts and ideas that are problematic – this is a necessary part of relationship. The key is how you do so. If kids are left feeling you think they are foolish, they will no longer share with you. When you become angry about it, they will continue to distance themselves. Ask yourself what you can change. Even better, ask your kids why they are not speaking with you anymore.
3. Be honest – as difficult as it is sometimes, nothing beats honesty well tempered with tact. Respect your children enough to give them straight answers to tough questions. Do not leave them guessing. If they respect you enough to ask you questions, answer them as best you can, even if that means saying: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.” If they do not get the answer from you they will seek it elsewhere.
4. Be yourself – the best way to relate to your children is as their parent. Be strong in your identity when interacting with them. Show them strength of character that is not swayed by different people, situations, places, etc. If you want your children to grow up to be their own people directed by their own thoughts and opinions, model that to them in your own life.
5. Be present – one of the most important gifts you can give to your children is your presence. Regardless of what you are doing, just spending time with your kids will demonstrate your care for them. If you engage them in conversation about things they are enjoying, even better.
This takes work. One thing I am sure we can all agree on is the importance of strong relationships with our children, as well as the children/families we work with. Work hard at it, and the results will follow…
Andy Lundy is a psychotherapist working in private practice (www.junipertree.ca) in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send him your questionsJ…