Recently, I wrote about how to talk to our children when a crisis occurs. Following that post, I began to think about talking to our children in general. Talking to them following a crisis, while necessary, seemed to be very reactive versus proactive. So what would be the proactive way to talk to our children?
Children and teenagers are very good at observing and listening to things even when we think that they aren’t paying attention. It then makes sense that if they are in the area when a news story comes on over the radio or TV, or if they are in the room when adults are talking about current events, they will likely encounter information that could raise questions for them, be confusing, or even be traumatic such as the recent Colorado movie theater shooting. There are also exposed to daily issues of life at school, at home, and in the community.
If parents or significant adults in their life don’t take the time to talk to them about issues, they will turn to other sources. I don’t know about you, but personally I want my kids to come to me first for their information and to talk about issues and concerns that they have.
The following are starting points for communication at home.
- Start by talking to them about what they see or hear. Ask them what they think about it first and listen without judgement. This let’s you in on their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and fantasies.
- Once you know where the child is coming from, you can guide them to a better understanding as well as take the time to instill your families morals and values regarding such issues or concerns.
- Establishes a connection that let’s them know that you are open and willing to have a conversation with them about issues and concerns.
- Repeat. This sets the expectation that communication will happen in your home.