Let’s face it, parenting is not easy even under the most ideal circumstances, and I think we can all agree that this year has been far from that. We are currently living in the most unique and unprecedented time of our lives. We are experiencing the stress of unexpected changes and new challenges both in our day to day and within our relationships.
My hope is to provide you with insight and tips to support your connection with your child and to ultimately make your life a little easier – and I dare say even a little more fun. No matter what is going on in the world, taking care of yourself and those we love is essential – and the ripple effect is real.
Whether you are raising a toddler or a teenager, communication is essential and it will continue to be throughout your relationship. The truth is most of us weren’t raised by parents who had it all figured out – and that’s okay. Each generation learns from the previous one. We are all doing the best we can while evolving. More recently, life has drastically changed. It can feel challenging to keep up with the basics, not to mention the “extra” AKA learning new styles of communication and connection.
My tips are designed to be simple, yet timeless, and to support you in cultivating sustainable relationships that can withstand the test of time – and the now! Here are a few communication tips and a special offer at the end!
1. Really tune in.
This means learning how to be present. Children have a way of bringing us into the now, but it isn’t always easy and it takes practice – practice on your own and with others. For some this might be a mantra, be here now. For others it might be sitting and feeling your feet on the ground, or putting your hands on your heart as a reminder when we are feeling overwhelmed. This is the time to take a breath, pause or to step away to take a moment for yourself.
2. Be okay with not knowing the answers.
If your child asks a question, especially one you are not sure about, get curious. Join them in their wonder. We might feel like we need to have it all figured out, but we don’t. And even if we do, our values might not be aligned with our children, so we need to honor them and their uniqueness by exploring side by side. You might even discover something about yourself along the way. Some children might even be asking you to explore with them rather than looking for an answer.
Every child and situation is different, so do your best to attune to what they need – and ask clarifying questions. Remember that no matter what age your child is or what they are asking, there is always a way to learn together. For those with older children, they might need an outside person to connect with as they begin to become more autonomous into young adulthood.
3. Focus on the relationship.
When things feel difficult, focus on the relationship and the rest will follow. We get caught up in trying to change things, fix things and make everything better – which is beautiful and sometimes necessary. We also need to learn how to just BE – just listen and put our relationships first. The relationship is the result you are looking for. Easier said than done, however when we do this, we often see how it affects the other areas in our lives.
4. Accept Conflicting Views.
Radically accept that right now you might not see eye to eye with the people closest to you, and this could include your children. We all have the opportunity to listen to one another and try to understand another perspective. This skill will come in handy especially when your children are older and experiencing the waves of adolescence.
5. Cultivate a taboo free realm.
Help your children understand that all questions are welcome and can be explored. This can be challenging, especially for parents with strong points of view, but it is essential if you want to maintain open communication and a lasting connection.
6. Communication is not always verbal.
A lot of communication is non-verbal. Within your home, you can explore other ways to communicate love, kindness and acceptance such as writing notes, keeping shared or personal journals, and being aware of how we respond with our facial expressions or tone of our voice. Some children are quite sensitive and may require a different approach to connection. You are more dynamic than you might know!
7. Validation and boundaries can be challenging.
Balancing both validation and boundaries is difficult. Validation is not about enabling, but about ensuring your child feels seen, heard, respected and loved. Boundaries are essential in all relationships. Because many of us were raised with people who implemented boundaries when stressed or as punishment, we may have a natural aversion for them. With families I work with, I model a middle ground approach where everyone feels seen and also understands limitations. Boundaries help children feel safe.
Try saying, “I hear that you want to go outside right now. The weather looks pretty stormy and it won’t be safe for our bodies. How about we go outside tomorrow morning?” So often children want to know they are heard and have a plan – just like adults.
8. Don't be alarmed.
Understand that it is natural for your teenager to challenge you and even argue. There are difficult skills required for different ages. For more information about how to connect with adolescents, see my special offer at the bottom of this article.
9. Accept the current reality.
Globally, nationally and within your home. Stay open to possibilities, magic and wonder. Darkest times often bring the most beautiful gifts.
10. Encourage asking for help.
Cultivate a culture where asking for guidance and support is okay and welcomed. If your child understands this when they are young, they will hopefully continue to feel this as they grow and as other challenges arise.
Here are examples of questions that inspire open communication:
Instead of asking: How are you feeling today?
Try: There’s a lot going on in the world right now, do you have any questions or wonders?
Instead of asking: How was your day?
Try: Anything tough or amazing happen today?
Instead of asking: How was your day?
Try: Did you have any highs? Any lows?
If you notice your teen is upset, one avenue would be to check in and ask if they’d like to talk about it, if they’d like you to listen (no advice, truly listen) or if they’d rather have support distracting from it. Along your journey of connection and communication, remember that there will be bumps along the way. After all, this is life and it is not a smooth ride for anyone. We learn from our “mistakes” and missteps.
These are our clues reminding us to breath, pause and pay some attention. We may have learned in our own younger days that perfection was the way, and certainly this would be lovely – a world with no wrongdoings, no heartbreak or hardship, however it is not realistic, nor fully living. We would not know joy or love, without pain. Pain is our portal. Relationships are our guide. Tuning in to the moment is a key and presence is the way to experiencing our lives fully. Maybe imperfect is perfect after all.
Here Are Some Resources
It’s worth investing in the time to read together and take courses that dive into new perspectives, outlooks and communication.
– “The Most Magnificent Thing” By Ashley Spires
– “Ish” By Peter H. Reynolds
– “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes” By Mark Pett
– “Many Colored Days” By Dr. Seuss
– “Oh, David” By David Shannon
– “In My Heart” By Jo Witek
– “Horton Hears A Who!” By Dr. Seuss
– “Twig” By Aura Parker
– “The Juice Box Bully” By Bob Sornson
– “What I Like About Me” By Allia Zobel Nolan
– “The Smallest Girl In The Smallest Grade” By Justin Roberts
– “The Day You Began” By Jacqueline Woodson
– “One” By Kathryn Otoshi
– “I Think I Am!” By Louise L. Hay
– “Be Kind” By Pat Zietlow Miller
– “The Way I Feel” By Janan Cain
Online Courses For Older Children:
– DailyOm offers a range of amazing courses on their website.
– Dr. Shefali offers some courses on her website.
– My online course for parents on teens at the lowest rate for bümo parents only.
It dives into how to best support your teen during tough times – hope to see you there! You can find it here.