was your day?
did you learn in school?
you've had conversations like this with your adolescent, take heart
- you're not alone. It happens all the time, particularly as kids enter
their roller-coaster pre-teen years.
With all the physical, emotional and social changes your adolescent
is going through, it's natural - and important - for you to want to
keep up with what's happening. But that's not always easy. Sometimes
it's hard to find the right opening, the right words or the right moment.
You're busy, your child is busy, and there are lots of distractions
to cut into your connection time. In fact, the recent Philips "Let's
Connect" survey found that most pre-teens and parents spend less than
an hour a day talking - many less than a half-hour.
But being a communication-friendly parent is crucial during this time
of rapid change. Moreover, many of the communication patterns you and
your child create today will be the ones you follow for the rest of
your lives. This guide, part of the Philips "Let's Connect" series on
family communication, has a few suggestions that may help make it easier
for you and your child to connect by making the most of whatever time
you have together.
the hardest thing about getting your child to open up is getting started.
If you want to start a conversation with your child:
ASK IF IT'S OKAY. A simple question like "Is this a good time to talk?"
can get the ball rolling. If your child says "no," come back with a
quick follow-up: "Well, when would be?" If your child can't think of
a good time to talk, just set one up anyway.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. Want to know how your child's day was? Show your
child how to talk about his or her day by first talking about your day
and then asking them about theirs.
ASK FOR HELP. Kids love to teach adults-especially their parents. It
makes them feel good about themselves and more comfortable talking.
Just make sure it's a real request for help and not an order to do a
PLAN SOMETHING. Whether it's a family vacation, visit to a family member,
shopping trip or even something as simple as choosing a video to watch,
kids like to be involved and feel like their opinions count.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR CHILD'S STYLE. For example, while many girls this
age are comfortable just sitting down with a parent and talking, boys
are often less self-conscious talking to a parent if they're also sharing
an activity such as playing a game of catch or building a model.
THE RIGHT QUESTIONS - Sometimes we make it easy for pre-teens to keep
quiet by asking vague questions that can be answered with a simple "yes,"
"no," or "I don't know." One of the secrets of getting kids to open
up is asking the right kind of questions - specific questions that need
more than a one-word answer. For example, instead of asking "How was
school today?" try something like "What do you think about your history
teacher?" or "What did you do today that you were proud of?" If your
child gives you a one-word answer, say "Tell me more."
BE APPROACHABLE - Teens and pre-teens who have something important to
talk to you about will often test the water by raising a less-threatening
issue, even something that sounds trivial. Be patient, even if you don't
understand why your child's talking about a particular topic. If your
child's comfortable talking to you about the small stuff, he or she
is much more likely to talk about the big stuff.
SEIZE THE MOMENT - Pay attention to teachable moments that occur throughout
the day and that can trigger important conversations. For example, use
events that happen on your child's favorite television shows to begin
conversations about peer pressure or sexual relationships. Your child
will be more comfortable talking about these issues this way than if
you raised them out of the blue.
LISTEN EFFECTIVELY - Effective listening skills include rephrasing your
child's comments to show you understand, paying close attention to your
child's face and body language, and giving non-verbal support and encouragement.
You should also encourage your child to keep talking by saying things
like, "How do you feel about that?"
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE - Remember that children this age are very sensitive
to ridicule or embarrassment. Let your children know how proud you are
that they have the maturity to talk to you about their lives and their
concerns. That will help them feel comfortable talking to you.
makes connecting easier than a shared activity you both enjoy. It helps
create the time for communication and gives you a common memory to talk
SHARE A HOBBY - Exploring an interest that you can both enjoy, whether
it's rollerblading or fashion, can result in hours of naturally-flowing
LOOK AT BABY PICTURES - A walk down memory lane is a great way to bring
up otherwise awkward topics including the many physical and emotional
changes that occur throughout your child's life.
MAKE CAR TIME CONVERSATION TIME - The moments you have together alone
in the car can help you share important information and emotions. You
can also learn a lot about your child if you pay attention to his or
her conversations with friends while they're riding in the back seat.
SHARE EXPERIENCES - Several times a year, when your child's reading
a particular novel for school, buy your own copy and read it as well.
Use it as a trigger for talking about your lives. Remember, you're not
trying to teach your child how to be a better English student! You're
just trying to talk.
SEE YOUR CHILD AS OTHERS DO - Many parents only see their children when
they're at home. Get involved with your child's school. Volunteer to
help with extracurricular programs, such as theater or sports. You may
discover new and wonderful aspects to your child that you otherwise
would have missed.
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Communication Tips for Kids
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