Parents As Social Resources
Do your kids turn to you for advice and support? Do they feel comfortable in doing that? Can you even tell if they feel comfortable? When kids feel comfortable reaching out to their parents for advice and support, then they know their parents are approachable and available when they have something serious to talk discuss. What qualities are necessary to make this come about?
First is to have a daily conversation with your young person by asking them questions. You can ask the standard, “What did you do in school today?” but will likely not receive much of an answer. Instead, ask them, “What did you love today?” and the second question, “What did you learn today?” Ask them for details, help them to explain to you in detail what they learned. If it is something you’re not familiar with, ask more questions. If you are familiar with their learning insight, ask questions as if you are not familiar with the topic. This helps kids to engage, and when they know that you are going to ask them daily those two questions and that you want an in-depth answer, they are more likely to prepare something to share.
Second is to allow your kids to voice their opinions without inserting your warnings and advice. Just let them tell how they feel, what their opinions, feelings, and experiences are with the topic. Value what they are saying by listening, occasionally asking clarifying questions, but being careful not to offer advice. The exception to this rule would be if what they are saying endangers their safety or well-being. Otherwise, listen and try to understand their thought patterns. If they need space one day and seem kind of distant, then give them some space, but let them know that you are available. You might say I’ll be in the family room reading, but feel free to come in anytime, and let’s talk. With that invitation, kids know that when they feel comfortable, they can share with you what is bothering them. Just the invitation opens up the possibility for a great conversation.
Talk in a place that is comfortable for the child, like their bedroom or another location where they spend time. Kids need to feel safe and surrounded by their familiarities. If they prefer to have music playing in the background, that is fine, but turn off the television so that the visual distraction isn’t present.
I want to encourage our parents today to be a Social Resource to all kids, and indeed to their own. Take time to listen without advice, to be available, to be flexible in your thoughts, place, and environment.
Yours for Better Parenting.