By Dianna Benavides and Shelbie Fowler
Communicating with your kids can sometimes feel like a big mountain to climb. You are busy with work, taking the kids to basketball practice, making sure homework gets done and fixing lunches. It seems the day is over before you know it.
Or maybe you and your child haven’t been getting along well lately. Maybe your child hasn’t been acting like their typical self. As S.T.A.R. Counselors, we work with families every day to help them open the doors of positive communication.
Here are a few ways to get the conversation going with your kids.
1. Ask, Share, and Listen
These three words seem simple but, oftentimes, are not a part of daily life for families. When your child comes home from school or practice, ask him/her about their day first. Be specific. Many times, we have heard from children that the first thing their parent/caregiver does when they get home is to give a list of chores.
Children want to share their day with you, so ask them questions about what they did during recess or what they did in science class. Then listen to what they have to say.
We hear parents express surprise at finding out new information about their child that they didn’t know before. Children have very few outlets where they are asked about themselves and are able to share their feelings freely. They need someone to listen to them. You may be surprised by what your child has to offer to a conversation.
2. Have dinner together as a family
Having at least one meal a week together can make a huge difference in the amount of communication that takes place in a family. For families working to open the door to communication, we often suggest that families begin eating dinner together, if they do not already, at least a once a week. Families are busy and not everyone can sit down to a full meal daily. Just pick a day during the week when it would be feasible to have a sit down meal.
Take it a step further and ask your child what they want or to help you cook! Check out The Family Dinner Project to learn some more tips and the benefits of family meal time. It includes conversation starters and tips for busy families.
3. Play games together
Children love to play games of all sorts.The distraction of a game can make a child feel safe and make an adult seem more relatable. There are so many games available and they don’t even have to be expensive.
Ask your child what their favorite game is or ask them to make one up! Children will love spending this extra, fun time with you and you will probably learn something new about your child.
4. Electronics – Turn them off
Between computers, T.V.’s, tablets, cell phones, and video games, children are being exposed to more screens filled with pretend families than their own real family! We suggest that families put away and turn off their electronic devices for 1 hour a day. Turning off and putting away the electronics can open up much needed time for communication that most families do not realize they are missing.
We have often heard from families that spending an hour without any electronics has really opened up their family communication and they are able to spend more quality time together.
S.T.A.R. (Services-to-At-Risk Youth) is a counseling program designed to help families who are experiencing conflict. Services are free to children ages 17 and younger and their families.