Parenting is really hard. There is no manual or guide book- no matter how many books you see in the store- none of them are adequate to help raise your child, because you child is unique. Every child needs to be parented differently- that’s just the way it is. But that being said, this week I’m going to explore some universal parenting things that I have found helpful.
Communication. Really- this isn’t just about parenting. It’s the first thing you need in any relationship. Without communication you have nothing.
- Set aside time to talk to your child every day. Every day. I don’t care how busy you are. I don’t care how busy they are. I want you to ask yourself: what is more important than carving out 10 or 15 minutes to actually talk to your kid.
- When I say talk, I really mean listen. Listen to what your child is saying to you when they answer a question or share an anecdote. Are they looking away from you? Are they smiling? Are they trying to gauge your reaction to what they are saying? How are they answering you? Look for the unspoken clues.
- Ask them questions. I know we have all faced the “What did you do in school?” “Nothing” scenario. But don’t leave it at that. I say to my kid- “Really? You stared at the walls all day?” (this was when she was younger) Now if my daughter is stupid enough to say “Nothing” I will say something like “Ok- so when you left the apartment today, did you see anyone in the lobby? Did you bus or subway? How long did you have to wait?” After a minute of me going through the first steps of her day, she eventually comes up with something to tell me.
- Catch them when they’re tired. When my daughter was younger I would read to her at night. After book time was the absolute best time to talk to her because her defenses were down- she would just tell me everything on her mind.
- Talk to your kid about your life. We play a dinner “game” called best/worst. We all say the best part of our day and the worst part of our day. this is great because my kid has learned from an early age that we all have bad days, we all have lousy things happen to us, but we still survive. I think kids sometimes think that nothing ever goes wrong for anyone else. They see that life does suck but we all bounce back.
- Tell your kids about your life. All of it. Age appropriately of course.
- Be the one to talk to your kids about sex and their bodies. From an early age, and of course, age appropriately. Make sure they have the correct facts.
- Don’t lie to them. But remember, sometimes a simple truthful answer is all you need. Don’t tell them every gory detail. Start simple. It usually works, especially when they are young. On the other side, you can go into a very complex answer- chances are they’ll be bored by what you are saying. But at least you were honest…
At the end of the day, keep the conversation going, with your kids, your partner, your best friend. Talking to one another is the simples most basic tool we have at our disposal. Use it.