Dr. Rich Patterson5

What Kids Need: Solid Communication

In part three of this series, What Kids Need, I want to talk about Solid Communication.  This conversation level is different that casual, what’s going on conversation.  These are serious conversations, helping them build skills for decisive moments in life.  Those moments when they need to make the right decision in a difficult or very tempting situation when you’re not present.  For this to happen without coming off as a warning or advice, parents first need to have built robust communication channels written about many times in this blog, which is now numbering at over 200 posts.  So I won’t write about those skills. Instead, I want to offer three ideas for developing the opportunity to talk shop with your young person.

First, when kids want to talk, the right time is right, then no matter what is happening.  They need to know that you are willing to drop anything for them, even to miss an important meeting or phone call.  My mentor John Maxwell tells a very moving story about a time when his son was having some problems with life.  John was selected to speak at a very high-level conference that is an extreme honor to speak.  His wife called him when he was en route to the event, on the plane.  She told him what was going on, and he immediately offered to turn around and head home.  She said, then you cannot speak at this event, and if you miss it, you will likely not be selected again.  He acknowledged that she was right, but elected to decide to support his son first.  In this example, we see someone willing to put even their career online to be there to help their kids.  That’s the kind of parent you want to be for your young person.  If they are away at college, be there for them, call them, write them, text them little texts of support, know what is going on and be a part of it even when you cannot be there in person.

Second, spend a whole day with one child.  Take an entire day, and be together, doing some things they like doing, hang out, talk with them, be fully-present for them without any advice or stories.  Enjoy doing things together.  When I was a child, my sister, me and my dad would all go fishing together nearly every Saturday.  That did two things, it gave the day for my older brother to be with mom, and my sister and I were with dad.  Now in the perfect world, it would have been just my dad and me.  When we take time to show this level of priority for your young person, we give them the feeling that they matter, that they are essential, that you support who they are and who they are becoming.

Third, talk with your child about world problems at their developmental level.  Help them to understand what our country is facing and ask them what they know about it.  You will be surprised at what kids know and are worried about concerning world problems.  My dad did this with us as kids by talking about articles that he would read in the Readers Digest periodical.  He loved reading their stories and would frequently talk to us about what was coming.  For example, I remember when he first told us that the United States was going to build an interstate system that would connect every major city in the country.  Yes, I am that old!  It was revolutionary at the time and nearly inconceivable.  By being careful not to insert your bias’, you can help them to develop their own opinions about important and future topics.

I challenge you today to take some time for serious and reliable communication with your young person.  Start with some world topics such as global warming, or the environment, flooding, weather events, and really find out what they know and also share some of your thoughts from over the years.  Careful not to get into too many long stories.  In this case, it can be useful to share some historical perspective for our current events to help the young person to frame them.  I hope that you will take the time to have a serious conversation with your young person.

Yours for Better Parenting,