Mom drops off the last kid in the carpool and her 15-year-old slides into the front seat.
“Mom, when you were my age, did you ever like a boy and he didn’t like you back?”
Many moms would pinch themselves at this moment. For some reason my daughter isn’t staring at her phone… she’s talking to me!
What prompted her to open up?
What helped her feel safe?
Parents experience these moments every once in a while, moments when, for some unknown reason, our kids open up and share with us. Sometimes it’s on a fishing trip, shopping for shoes, or roasting marshmallows around a fire, when no cell signal is available. Other times it’s when we’re putting our child to bed and he or she looks up at us and asks us, “Dad, what do you do when someone makes fun of you in front of the whole class?”
These moments are unpredictable and often come at untimely moments. The kids are all going to bed and Daddy and Mommy might actually get a few moments of intimacy. Then… “Daddy, can we talk?”
Cherish these moments. The older your kids get, the less frequently they emerge. But don’t just welcome these moments when they come knocking at your door, seek out these moments. Here’s three practices that will help you not only maximize, but actually provoke these moments:
- Quantity Time: Sometimes parents try to substitute quality time for quantity time. Sadly, you never know when quality time will happen. So instill some quantity time into your schedule. Try taking your kids to breakfast or on a lunch date once a week. Yes, ten of these dates might seem like a complete waste of time… but on that eleventh breakfast, a quality time moment emerges. Your quantity time investment will yield quality time moments. Quality time is dependent upon quantity time.
- Favor Bonding: Most parenting experts agree that parenting requires two vital ingredients, bonding and boundaries. Bonding is getting to know your kids, laughing and eating French fries, rolling on the ground wrestling. Boundaries is teaching values and occasionally saying, “No, you can’t do that.” Sadly, many parents focus more on boundaries than bonding. In fact, most of their communication with their kids is, “Did you finish your chores?” “What time did you get home last night?” If most of our communication is ‘checking up’ on our kids… it’s no wonder they don’t want to communicate with us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t have boundaries. Far from it. I’m just proposing that if all we ever communicate is ‘boundaries’… don’t wonder why our kids aren’t bonding with us.
- Seek Out Communication Arenas: Communication Arenas are those places where our kids seem to naturally want to open up. No-tech zones, bedtime conversations, hikes… What venues seem to provoke conversation from your kids?
In my house we don’t allow phones at the dinner table, then we all work together cleaning up and doing the dishes afterwards. I’m amazed at how many good conversations we’ve had during this “mealtime.” Maybe it’s the removal of distractions like the phone, or perhaps it’s the fact that my family really enjoys food. Regardless of the reason, my kids seem to feel safe to talk during dinner.
When do your kids feel safe to open up?
What can you do to create these moments?
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