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Being Your Child’s Confidant

Baseball Boy and Dad/Coach 2Recently I’ve heard a couple of my friends with teenage children say things like “As long as I don’t hear about it…” or “I just don’t want to know” when referencing situations in which their children may be participating, such as dating, sex.  Although discovering your child has been engaging in activities that may cause you to want to lock them away for the next 30 years, wouldn’t you rather have a relationship that allows and encourages your child to use you as a sounding board and confidant?   In the blog post “Ben the Person Your Child Confides In,”  Janet Lansbury shares six suggestions for building such a relationship with your child:

  1. Respectful two-way communication from Day One.  If you’re the parent of a baby, instead of always engaging in “baby talk,” try using your authentic voice to talk about “real” things, such as asking the baby “Do you want me to pick you up now?” while observing and listening to the baby’s responses.  Ms. Lansbury suggests that by relating to our infants as a whole person from the very beginning, this early dialogue can be the start of a healthy, open relationship.
  2. Empathy, understanding, limits without shaming.   I know, there may be times when using empathy seems to be the hardest thing to do as a parent, but it is essential for children to feel our unconditional love and acceptance in order to build the trust necessary for honesty and sharing.  Use empathy and understanding to acknowledge your child’s feelings and perspectives while clarifying expectations and preventing unacceptable behavior.   For example, we can let our child know that it’s okay that they feel like hitting their sibling, but we won’t allow it to happen and it is not an acceptable way to take out their frustration or anger.
  3. Not taking sides or criticizing.  Stay neutral and listen to both sides.  When we judge a sibling or friend because our child is hurt or disappointed, we are perceived as judgmental, critical, and are less trusted as a confidant.
  4. Listening and acknowledging, not fixing.  Only give advice when asked.  When our child is hurting, more than anything, as parents we just want to make it better.  But children don’t open up unless we offer them a listening ear and an accepting space.  Just being there instead of trying to comfort will be much more powerful in the long run.  Comment to acknowledge feelings, not to project our thoughts onto the situation.
  5. Honest, humble admissions.  When appropriate, remind your children that you’ve made similar (or the very same) mistakes in your lifetime as well.  However, don’t turn your child’s situation into your own.  Allow them to own their particular emotions, and the situation that caused them.
  6. Patience through the lean times.  Let the child initiate.  Probing parents don’t often lead to open, honest discussions with your child.  Hopefully but implementing some of the strategies Ms. Lansbury has shared in her post, our children will know through our words and actions that we are open, non-judgmental, and ready to talk when they are.

Do you want even more resources on how to better communicate with your child?  Kidtelligent can help!  The unique Kidtelligent Assessment not only gives you indispensable insight into your child’s personality, it also offers parenting suggestions and tips based on your child’s distinctive personality traits, including tips on how to deal with tough parenting issues.  To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to www.kidtelligent.com, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Kidtelligent.

Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent.  She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys.