Gary Gilles is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in private practice for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University ...Read More
For the first part of this blog, please read The Challenges of Parenting in a Time Starved World.
So, it is no secret that we live in a fast-paced world and we aren’t going to slow it down much by ourselves. But we can focus our limited attention in ways that seem to slow it down enough to make meaningful contact with our children. And that is something worth your limited time. You want to stay connected to your child and the best way to do this is to deliberately make an effort to talk with them.
Here are a few suggestions of how to slow down your world and your child’s enough to make meaningful points of contact.
Be sensitive and responsive to your child’s developmental needs
Remember, each child is going through their own unique social, emotional and physical changes. Practice putting yourself in your child’s place when you find yourself disagreeing or growing impatient. Imagine what it is like to see the world from their perspective, feel their feelings and struggle with the obstacles they face. It may be different than what you experienced at their age. So, try to get inside of their frame of reference.
Use conversation as an opportunity to keep up with your child’s activities and relationships
Pursue your child instead of waiting for him or her to come to you. But avoid excessive questioning. The average child, especially teens, doesn’t like to be interrogated. They will respond better to casual approach. Perhaps start with one question and then let the conversation unfold. Your child’s response to one question can provide a direction for the conversation. Instead of gathering information on the run, sit down, make eye contact and really listen.
Look for opportunities to genuinely compliment and praise your child’s successes, accomplishments, and good behaviors
Talk at least as much about what they are doing well instead of their failures, mistakes, and bad behaviors. Children who receive a significant amount of positive verbal attention and interaction want to talk more with their parents. They feel safer, will disclose more and feel more secure in the relationship. Your genuine attempts to be affirming will keep the lines of communication open and you will become more aware of your child’s feelings, opinions, and objections. This awareness then encourages even more conversation.
Strive for balance between autonomy and respect for authority
You ideally want to let your children have age-appropriate autonomy. The tendency in our culture is either to give children too much autonomy and freedom before there are emotionally mature enough to handle it or be too restrictive out of a desire to protect them. You want something in between: enough room to be their age but with parental guidance, support and involvement. This balance can be tricky, especially living in a fast, indulgent culture.
Keep the relationship intact
Every family has conflict. When conflict arises, take the initiative to seek relational repair with your child, even if the source of the conflict isn’t your fault. I’m not suggesting you apologize for something that is not your fault. I am suggesting that you model the idea of relational repair. It sends a clear message to your child that the relationship is more important than the feelings which seem to be getting in the way at the time. When trying to do relationship repair, go beyond apologies and invite your child to explain what they were upset about, why and how it felt to them. None of these suggestions take a lot of time. But they do take deliberate effort and practice. With a little of both you can slow your world down a little and feel good about how you are still able to nurture the relationship with your kids.