It’s Not Wine--It’s Communication. 3 Tips to Get Your Kids Talking
“Parenting is the hardest and best thing you will ever do.” I heard it several times from those who had done it before me when I became a new parent. And I listened. And I tried to understand. But as we all know, sometimes that’s easier said than done. When my daughter was born, I began to get it. Unconditional love and constant awe of the life I held in my arms was coupled with unfathomable exhaustion and a constant haze that began to feel normal. It was a test of stamina and resourcefulness; the worry was centered around naps, feeding schedules, and meeting milestones. At some point, it began to feel manageable and I was ready for another. My son was born, and I felt like a pro. I had done this before, no sweat. If only I had known then what I know now!
When they became toddlers, I worried about them learning to share. Elementary school brought with it the challenges of navigating friendship and conflict. As I sit here writing this now, mom to a 13 and 10 year old, I worry about things like peer pressure and social media. We talk about Instagram, Snapchat, and group texts, and how these things can be fun and engaging one minute and harmful and scary the next. High school is up next. I’m bracing myself.
Believe it or not, there is one thing I’ve continued to rely on for the last 13 plus years, and it’s not wine! It’s communication. Being a therapist who works with children, adolescents, teens, and parents, I know how important communication is. Every behavior is telling us something. From a toddler refusing to go to school to a teen staying out past curfew, there is meaning behind all of it. I also know how difficult it can be to find the best way to communicate with our kids. In actuality, the best way takes into consideration the nuances that make your family unique. That said, there are some basic practices that may provide a good starting point.
Spend some time considering how your child communicates. When do they seem most comfortable and forthcoming? This could be at bedtime, in the car, or while doing something that makes them feel good.
Ask them questions and listen to their responses. Minimize distractions and be present. These moments help them to connect with you and to trust you.
When they seem unusually upset, angry, or sad, or behave in a way that seems unusual to you, don’t just chalk it up to a phase or hormones. Seek a deeper understanding of what may be troubling them. Letting them know that you see their struggle is a great place to start.
From toddler to teen, communicate with your children often and with care. Be mindful and patient. It’s not always easy, as I now know, but the rewards are plentiful.
Is parenting hard? Absolutely. But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.