Many times parents have come to me and asked how they can get their children to talk to them about serious or uncomfortable topics. Most of many times these parents express that their children feel appear apprehensive or shy addressing serious topics (sex, drugs, etc…) or conversations turn quickly turn into arguments.
My response is usually, “When was the last time you listened to your child?” The parent looks confused at this point and so I kindly explain that many times children are reluctant or avoid sharing with us because we have not been good listeners during the good or the bad times. We are often too busy, too tired, in a rush, or want to impart advice before it is requested. All of those situations do not make us good listeners. Good listeners are attentive, focused on the listener, give eye contact, and provide advice or suggestions if it is requested.
One of the ways I have found to encourage quality communication with children and also to enhance parental listening skills is to implement family meetings into a household. When a family meeting is performed correctly and consistently it will provide all family members with a positive communication experience and a setting in which everyone feels heard. It provides continuous practice in communicating as a family. Therefore, when children do experience a difficult situation or need guidance concerning an uncomfortable topic (sex, drugs, etc..) they are already in the habit of speaking with their adult or primary caregiver and are more likely to disclose during the tough times.
Listed below are 6 steps to implement a family meeting into your household.
Schedule the time and place of the meeting and let all the family members know at least a week advance.
Schedule the length of the meeting. Younger children (2 to 5 years old) probably cannot sit through more than 20 minutes. 6 or older can probably last a full hour.
Invite all members of the family who live in the household to attend from grandparents to toddlers (4 years old is usually a good starting age).
Provide a method which encourages everyone to speak at the meeting. One idea is to have everyone go around the room and each person say one thing they enjoyed about his/her week or about the family. No one can interrupt the speaker.
If you have a problem to discuss only do one problem per meeting.
Close the meeting on a positive note. Some families say a prayer or finish with hugs and hi-fives.
Learning to communicate is a skill. This skill is introduced at home. Through the use of family meetings you may be able to help your child develop effective communication skills and let them know you care about their opinions and problems.
If you would like more help establishing a family meeting and need assistance, help is a phone call away.
You can reach me, Nicole Wallace, at (919) 925-2274 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.