CONNECTING WITH KIDS: FOR PARENTS
Shady Oak believes in preparing children for adulthood by building on “6 Pillars”: Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and [Capable] Problem Solving. Tune in over the next several weeks as we explore each Pillar in practical detail.
There’s a difference between communicating and connecting, and focusing exclusively on either can hurt parent-child relationships. Where the relationship is all communication and no connection, the usual result is that the child grows up distant and hurting, seeing Mom or Dad as a boss who runs an efficient ship but doesn’t really understand or care—someone with no feeling for individual needs. Especially when those needs include an empathetic ear.
Your kids may know what you expect from them, but can they expect understanding and emotional security from you?
Accept Interruptions: Always Make Time to Listen
Nothing makes a child, or anyone else, feel more dehumanized than being put on hold while a parent/teacher/customer service representative deals with “important” matters which mean nothing to the ignored party. Make a point of not overloading your schedule until you can’t afford to miss one section of a revolving door; and when your child addresses you while you’re doing something else, give her your full eyes-and-ears attention long enough to be sure she can’t wait—and to let her know when you will address her concern.
You can head off many interruptions before they happen, simply by establishing house rules on what constitutes an emergency (remember to get the kids’ input) and by teaching kids to handle basic duties themselves.
Openly Appreciate the Individuals They Are
They may be your children, but they’re also human beings with passions and opinions that might or might not match yours. Trying to force them to be what you envision for them—or duplicates of what you wish you had been at their age—will only alienate them.
If you can’t easily come up with “what describes him/her?” answers for each of your children in each of the following categories—
- Dreams for future careers
- Favorite hobbies and leisure activities
- Favorite genres/topics in books and other media
- Preferred styles in dress and overall appearance
- Preferred approaches to socializing
- Preferred means of receiving parental affection (compliments, gifts, hugs, time together, direct attention?)
—it’s time to start paying closer attention to your children, and encouraging them to talk about their own preferences.
And always congratulate your children enthusiastically on achievements they’re proud of.
Serve Your Larger Community Together
The ultimate ideal is connecting not only with those closest to you, but those further removed (not least those “different” from yourselves). Find out what causes are dear to your children’s hearts as well as your own, and make it a family project to regularly join teams active in those causes. Working together to help build large-scale human connections, will also build your connections with each other!
Be here for next week’s post when we explore the communication side of the Connection–Communication equation.