As parents who have raised one child to adulthood, with two close behind, we have to tell you that communication with us was important in our children’s lives. We learned, often with mistakes along the way, how important it is to have good communication with our children. But in those mistakes, we learned how necessary it is that the lines of communication were open. It was (and still is) significant in our relationship with each of our children, that they know they can come to us and talk about anything. Nothing is too embarrassing or difficult or silly to talk to us about. We have made this very clear to them. So, how do we encourage our children to talk to us?
Build trust! They needed to know that they could trust us with anything they told us. We reassured them that what they said to us, stayed with us. No sharing with family or friends. Their words were precious and to be treated so. We also wanted them to come to us FIRST, next to the Lord, of course. Though they were surrounded by so many other people they adored, it was important they choose their parents to share their concerns with before others. Lastly, in building trust we helped remove any fear of them sharing personal things with us, including sins they might be dealing with…so very important in today’s world. (Galatians 6:6,7)
Have no judgment! We asked our children recently what we did to encourage open communication with us. Our oldest son said, “You didn’t judge.” No one likes to be judged and we are called to “judge not” (Luke 6:37). Whatever they shared with us was received in love and dealt with in love. After all, like us, God offers them forgiveness and we needed to remember that. (Colossians 3:13) Because they felt no judgment, they were more apt to share their hearts and concerns with us…not with their friends, which could be bad news since “folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Proverbs 22:15)
Listen with both ears! One of the areas we worked on much was listening with BOTH ears. That means stopping what we were doing (if we could) and giving our undivided attention. It’s so easy to say, “Hold on” or “Wait a minute.” Yet it is not going to encourage communication between us and our children. Making time to listen intentionally proved we were interested in their lives…all aspects of it. If they don’t have our ears, they will seek others to listen to them, which could be detrimental to them. It is our charge to lead our children “in the way they should go,” and that means we must make a conscious choice to listen to them. One note we have on this: we taught our children not to interrupt if we were in conversation with another person. If they needed our ears, they were to put their hand on our knee (if we were sitting) or on our shoulder (if we were standing) and then wait for us to listen. Even in this, I always acknowledged their action by putting my hand on top of theirs so they knew I knew. I desired to give them my undivided attention while teaching them respect for others who were speaking.
Listen without directing! Now this type of listening is just that…listening. Listening without directing. Sometimes they just want to vent their hearts and feelings. It takes great effort to just listen and not feel like you have to give advice or leading. This type of listening reminds them that they can share what they are experiencing and know that we will “hear” what is being said without always having the answer. We need to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” sometimes. (James 1:19) “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13) Likewise, use this opportunity to end your time together with prayer, taking it to God, demonstrating that even we parents need to seek the Lord for direction.
We are blessed that our children choose to communicate their lives with us. Through the years, we have had heart tugging, smile inducing, and life changing conversations with our children. They have blessed our lives (and sometimes taught us a thing or two) in coming to us with their concerns, questions, and experiences. Our encouragement to you is to start this process early in age…start young!Remember it does matter who your children talk to….let it be you.
Naomi, a daughter of the King who understands her need of a Savior, is married to a wonderful man and they have three fabulous children. They are blessed to homeschool going on 19 years. She is a photographer who enjoys scrapbooking, reading, quilting, being a wife and mother. She blogs at What Joy Is Mine where she encourages others to seek joy in their every day lives based on Proverbs 17:22 because God is good all the time! You can receive her blog posts via email by subscribing and connect with her on Facebook as well as Twitter.