Parents need to learn to engage their children in conversation. There are some keys you can use to enhance dialogue and we will discuss a few. However, we need to understand why it is important to have these conversations with our children.
School is fundamental in the educational development of children but you are still the main person and caregiver in your child’s life. A teacher may have up to thirty or more children to interact with on any give day. They are important to your child but the emotional state and educational development of your child still rests in your hands. The more you engage in dialogue and observe your child the more you will be in tune with how your child is doing on any given day.
Schools and school playgrounds are not always nice places to be. As a teacher I would over hear the children’s conversations and the language that came out of their mouths could be very destructive. In saying that, teachers as well as parents are not exempt from saying very hurtful words to a child that can have a lifelong effect on the child’s self esteem.
The dialogue you are creating allows your child an opportunity to express any hurt, frustration, joy, successes and failures they have had. What your child needs is an ear that will hear beyond the words and an advocate that will be there. You will learn to recognize mood swings, pain, anxiety, depression, fear, and outside pressures allowing you to intervene or monitor the situation before it’s too late.
So what are a few keys to helping this process?
1. Be a good listener. You must learn to allow your child to fully express what they are trying to say without you finishing their sentence or making a statement that has already judged them. Let them finish speaking. Everything inside you may be screaming that was sure stupid – but don’t say it – listen! When you listen look into their eyes. They are the windows to the soul and children need to get use to eye contact. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Give them all of you. If the phone rings, don’t answer. Show them you are listening, that you are interested and that you are for them.
2. Set apart a time when this can happen. We had one mealtime together as a family everyday. If the phone rang, we ignored it. Our children had our attention. We would eat together, laugh together and take time to hear how the day had touched each of us. They would listen to each other as well and that helped develop care within the family.
3. Ask open-ended questions. For example you could ask what was the first thing you did as you went into the school gate? Who did you see and play with? What did you play? What was the three best parts of your school day? What was the low in your day? Work at this with your children. It will help them to develop thought processes as well as communication skills.
All this takes time and energy and determination on your part but once you have this routine established with your children it will be invaluable. Remember you children are the future leaders in society and you have this most important opportunity to shape them. It is worth it – they are worth it.