Lines of Communication: Keeping in Touch with Your Child

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You were all in all to your newborn. His day revolved around yours, and he could spend hours doing nothing but gazing into your face. You answered his every murmur, and—unless he happened to be colicky—you two had what is pretty much the most perfect human connection on our imperfect planet—the telepathy of mother and child.

But he didn’t stay a newborn, he grew up. And he grew independent. Independence is a good thing, but there’s a danger, too: as our children test their limits and begin to live their own lives, the lines of communication can get broken. Sometimes we don’t realize what’s happened till the teenage years roll around—and then we suddenly discover that we don’t recognize the stranger at the breakfast table at all, and, what’s more, we have no idea how to communicate with him. It’s been too long since we’ve done anything but remind him to wash behind his ears and put on clean socks.

What went wrong? Newborn telepathy doesn’t continue forever, but sometimes we miss how to turn that into the verbal communication that is the language of older children and teenagers. It’s important we keep open the lines of communication through preschool, grade school and on into the two digit years. Being intentional about it when our children are small is the only way to make sure we don’t end up with a stranger at the breakfast table.

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Here are four big ways to keep in touch with our children through the rush and busyness of school day.

1. Spend mealtimes together, and don’t bring your phone, tablet, or blackberry.

2. Plan to take ten minutes off from whatever you’re doing when your child comes in from school or another all-day event. Greet your child gladly, then be there to listen to whatever he or she wants to share.

3. Talk to your child about school, but not only as relates to grades—make the focus your son or daughter’s thoughts and feelings about what he or she is going through. If there is a big exam, don’t just ask what grade he got; ask how he feels about it, and why.

4. Interest yourself in your child’s passions. If he all about bugs, read up on some entomology yourself; enough, at least, that you can carry on an intelligent conversation about them. IF your daughter is all into gymnastics, take some time to watch gymnastic competitions with her.

It’s the little things that makes the difference. Try implementing each of these four ideas in little ways, starting today, and you may surprise yourself by how quickly you see a change in your child’s attitude. He won’t tell you so, but his surprise at finding a sympathetic, interested listener is only matched by his joy at the change. Communication matters.

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