Why is Talking to My Kids So Important?
by Dr. Deborah Gilboa
It seems easy enough, right? You've been talking to your kids since they were born (or before)! That repetition, stream-of-consciousness kind of communication is a great way to start.
Once kids themselves start to talk, the conversation becomes a two-way street. Remember the questions? The dozens or hundreds of questions about everything, from how every machine works to why you picked that spoon for your coffee to when can we go to the park and get ice cream again!?
Those questions, frustrating and repetitive though they may be, are the foundation of a great communication relationship!
Our preschoolers think we are an expert in...everything. Our elementary schoolers want to ask us questions and tag along while we find the answers. All of this sets the stage for the most important conversations we will have.
Our children will have more complicated questions, about their bodies, and sex, about alcohol, drugs, about bullying or eating disorders, about war and deployment, about moving or divorce about faith, about death and many other topics.
Our tweens and teens want answers, and we need them to ask us!
If our children believe that we can't or won't talk about the hard stuff, they will go elsewhere for their answers. They will look to siblings, or the internet, or to friends, or just try to overhear conversations on the bus.
What can we do?
- Consider every question. We don't have to answer every question, but we want our kids to know we're glad they are thinking, and asking.
- Get the facts. Our kids will respect us if we say "I don't know but let's find out" or "Let me think about that and get back to you." As long as we follow through on the promise! (Trick: if you think you'll forget, ask your child to ask you again that night or the next day)
- Build trust. Give honest, age appropriate answers. If we lie to kids, they often figure it out later. Then we are teaching them that we can't handle the topic or we believe they can't.
- Listen to their responses. As topics get more complex, our kids need a safe place to express their feelings and explore ideas or doubts. If we can hear that, we can keep children and teens safe in ways we couldn't if we ignore their experiences.
- Leave the door open. End each conversation with an invitation to talk more later. As kids learn more or hear new facts (or fiction), make sure they know you are the person who will help them check on that information, and discuss it.
In relationships, communication is power! This communication takes practice. Keep talking with your kids about why the sky is blue, so they will come to you first when the question changes to something scarier or more immediate.
Our kids want answers; let's offer some.
About Deborah Gilboa, MD (Dr. G)
Dr. G is a board certified Family Physician and mother of four. Founder of AskDoctorG.com, a resource for parents and educators with child behavior questions, Dr. G leads seminars all around the country to empower parents to raise children they can respect and admire. You can find her with questions on her site, interact with her on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus. Bring Dr. G to your business, community or faith-based organization for a powerful event that will help parents Get the Behavior You Want... Without Being a Parent You Hate!