As my girls grow up and are now well and truly in the ‘Tween’ years I have discovered that one of my best parenting tool is talking. Yep, just talking.
Talk to them.
Talk about whatever comes up.
Talk about current events.
Talk about why people are saying things about Miley Cyrus, ask them what they think?
Talk about why you think they shouldn’t watch that TV show.
Talk about advertising and body image.
Talk about politics and religion, even if you don’t believe in either.
Talk about what is on the news, even if it is scary.
Talk about what they like.
Ask them about school and friends and the stuff they do.
Ask them to explain why they like this pop star.
Ask them to explain the rules of that game.
Ask them why they like that friend so much.
Ask them about that crazy fad that they love so much, or the book they are reading, or the sport they are playing.
Talk about what it was like when you were their age.
Tell them stories about yourself, not with a ‘you should be grateful when I was young there wasn’t any smart phones’ kind of attitude, but with a ‘this is what I loved when I was your age, this is what I struggled with when I was your age’ kind of attitude.
Talk about the hard stuff.
Talk about bullying and being sad.
Talk about puberty and sex.
Talk about death.
Talk about alcohol and drugs.
Don’t avoid these topics, talk about them early and often.
Talk with them.
Have a conversation. That means listening not lecturing.
Your kids have things to say, and ideas to share. You will learn a lot about your kids, the world and yourself if you listen to them. Listen, even if they don’t have much to say, and even if you don’t like what you hear.
Keep it age appropriate.
You don’t need to go into all the intricate details of a subject if you feel your child is not old enough to understand, but by age ten there are not many (any?) topics that I would not give my girls factual information about.
Be conscious of your tone.
Don’t slip into ‘know it all mode’ or ‘these are the rules mode’. You’ll get a much better response if your tone is loving, open, and honest.
When you don’t know something say so, and figure out ways to find out together.
Be honest when something is just your opinion, but explain why you think your values are important.
Be honest when you find something embarrassing or difficult to talk about, but don’t let it stop you.
Don’t call them in and sit them down for a lecture, keep it casual.
Talk during one on one time, talk over dinner, while driving, at bed time. Think about how you will discuss the tricky stuff before hand, but don’t regurgitate rehearsed responses. Keep it natural, making lots of times to just sit and talk with your kids about whatever comes up will mean there are lots of opportunities for discussing all kinds of topics.
Start talking now.
Start talking while they are still young enough to want to have a conversation with you and while they still value your opinion.
Start talking to them when they are little, so you can practice discussing the hard stuff before it is really needed.
Start talking now before they get misinformation from other sources.
Start talking now so it becomes a habit, a natural, normal thing, that will last for the rest of their lives.
Talking to my girls now that they are older has become so important, and such an incredible opportunity to connect with them, learn about them, and guide them. I wish I had realised how important it was to create a culture of open conversation with my kids early and often. We’ve always talked, but now that I realise how powerful a tool this is, I will consciously make more time to just sit and chat.
What do talk to your kids about?
Do you find it difficult to tackle the more tricky subjects?
As my children get older I am thinking more about more about the challenges of parenting tweens and older kids. As I struggle to get my head around this stage I am sharing some posts on parenting tweens over at Childhood101, I’d love you to pop over and share your thoughts.
You can find all of my posts on Tweens and older kids here.