NOW IS THE TIME TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUNG ONES
Young children don’t measure your love for them by how much money you put into their college funds, how clean the house is, or even the number of gifts you give them. As Dr. Anthony P. Witham once said, children have their own way of spelling “love”: T-I-M-E. Here are a few pieces of communication advice to make sure you are there for your children.
Take the time—trust me, you have it
Take some time every day and spend it with your kid. If you have more than one kid, make sure they each get some one-on-one time. Block time out in your busy schedule if you have to—just make sure you do it every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes per day, it can make a huge difference in building good, quality communication habits with your kids and do wonders for your relationship.
Trust me: you can spare 15 minutes. You’re not that busy (even if you feel otherwise).
It’s vital that your attention is focused on your kids while spending time with them. Slow down and be present. That means putting your phone down, shutting your laptop, turning off that show, and devoting your undivided attention. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact it will make.
“When you’re overwhelmed with your responsibilities, it’s easy to toggle into automatic pilot with your kids,” says Dr. Harley A. Rotbart. “But if your mind is elsewhere during the precious moments you’ve worked hard to preserve, you have lost your kids’ childhood just as surely as if you hadn’t spent the time with them at all.”
Don’t just hear them out: listen
Your kids know when you’re really listening and when you’re just giving them the absent-minded nod followed by the “Uh huh, sure, honey,” run-around routine. When you take the time to be with your kids, make sure you’re listening. Open your ear holes and soak it up. It will not only help you build stronger bonds with your kids, but it will also make your children feel valued and loved.
Ask your kids about their feelings on things they care about. And you don’t know what your kids are into, now might be a good time to find out. Have fun with it. Laugh a little. Play and joke a bit.
But remember, you’re listening. This isn’t a time to lecture. This is a time to teach. You don’t have to do much at all besides pay attention and listen. And you don’t have to agree with everything your kids say to be a good listener, either. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about showing them that you love them. Make an effort to open up your ears and shut your mouth.
Do not tell your kids what you think they should feel, and don’t just assume you know what they’re feeling either. Let them express those feelings in their own way and in their own time.
Patience is a key element in showing that you care. And whatever you do, don’t minimize their feelings by saying things like “That’s dumb,” or “You’re silly, you shouldn’t feel like that,” or “Don’t worry. You’ll get it when you’re older.” Their feelings are real and should be considered and respected.
“When kids feel valued, loved, heard, and respected, they develop an identity based on these responses,” says Támara Hill, child/adolescent therapist. “Most children don’t demand much; they simply want to have a place in the world and in the lives of those they love.”
Don’t just be a role model: be a good one
When your children are grown, they’ll put you into one of two categories. Either you’ll fit into the “I want to be just like them,” category, or the “I don’t want to make the same mistakes,” category. These are also known as the “good role model” and “bad role model” categories.
Growing up, my dad’s most famous saying around the house was, “Do what I say, not what I do.” As teens, this was funny, especially when Dad got in trouble with Mom for saying it. When you’re dealing with little kids who can’t always communicate vocally, however, your example is paramount.
Use tones and words you want your children to mimic, because they will. If you’re yelling at your partner in front of your kids, don’t be surprised with the yelling starts between siblings. If you laugh when you say, “Stop, that’s not right,” you’re going to confuse your kids. Be clear and precise. Use words they will understand to describe what you are feeling. Doing that will help your kids to learn to get in touch with their own feelings and express them the same way.
Being a good parent is all about showing your children you love them. This comes with taking the time to be there, knowing how to listen, and being a good role model. If you can master those things, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding as a parent. Don’t miss out on their lives. They don’t stay kids for too long.