Life is busy and most of the time many of us feel like we are holding on to too many ropes to manage. The world we live in is one that requires us to feel like we must “have it all” and encourages us to “multi-task” to various degrees. How does this affect our families and how we raise them?
When I taught in Indonesia many students used to come to me with problems ranging from relationship issues to bullying to teen anxiety. Most of these should have been presented to parents; but, they came to me.
After counselling the students, I would frequently hear students comment, “My parents don’t take the time to listen to me like you do.” I would try to explain to students that their parents were busy supporting them and their future. But, the students would appropriately question, “So their business is more important than me?”
Children desire their parent’s attention. But we know that. So what’s going on?
Communication. Open lines of communication with your children to allow them to feel acknowledged and present in your relationship. The world is full of distractions; however, we must make our children and families the best distractions and prioritize them. Here are a few little things we can introduce to increase the quality of interaction with our children by opening up the lines of communication.
(1) Step away from electronics.
We encourage and limit children’s time with electronics; however, many times we don’t limit ourselves from electronics. Whether it is because of work or our social lives, we are always plugged in.
Imagine you and your husband went out for an evening, and the entire time, he was checking text messages and e-mail. You’d feel like an afterthought to his phone! When we are spending quality time with children, the same experience can occur. Don’t make your children feel like an afterthought to your technology.
Key Takeaway: During quality family time, especially at the dinner/lunch table, turn off electronics and be present.
(2) Take Interest in their Interests.
Another strategy to open lines of communication with your children is to take interest in their hobbies. Whether it be a new book they are reading, a sport they are watching, or an art project that they are glued to, take interest. Join in, ask questions, and learn.
When you participate in play with your children, it gives them an opportunity to possibly teach you, and shifts the dynamic of the relationship — creating dialogue between parent and child.
Key Takeaway: Join in, ask questions, and learn about your child’s hobbies.
(3) Listen. Don’t fix.
In his best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman cites that one of the most significant problems in spousal relationships is just this… listening vs fixing. Frequently, a husband or wife will be focused on fixing problems, assuming it is for the best. When in reality, the spouse just wants somebody to listen… for venting and for comfort.
Learn to listen. If given the opportunity, children will divulge everything to you. But, they have to trust that you will be a comfort for them. Be that sounding board that allows your children to, well, talk.
Key Takeaway: Don’t listen with the intention to fix. Listen with the intention to listen!