Posted: June 17th, 2013 by Michele Borba
Parenting advice to help kids learn to self entertain and enjoy their own company! (Do beware: a new trend shows our Micromanaged, Over-structured, “Plugged-In” Generation can’t stand boredom. Maybe it’s because we might be doing too much scheduling, entertaining and solving? Just a thought!)
There is a concerning new trend with twenty-first century kids. Perhaps because they’re been programmed and scheduled and micromanaged and adult supervised, many seem to have a tough time enjoying their own company and entertaining themselves.
So when it comes to free time, they’re perplexed. Their solution: plugging into computers, televisions or video games or saying those dreaded words that every parent hates to hear: “I’m bored!” And then they expect US to entertain THEM.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. This is the time of year my email box is flooded with parent queries centering on one issue: “How do I entertain my kid without breaking the bank?” And it’s a legitimate worry.
Well, here’s a thought: Why not rethink your role this summer and deliberately choose not be a social director and plan your child’s every waking hour? In fact, you’ll actually be doing your kid a favor if you don’t play, “Julie McCoy.”
These next weeks can be a huge opportunity to help our kids learn crucial life skills like creative thinking, resourcefulness and problem solving that you can’t learn when everything is so programmed and supervised. (Hopefully that should alleviate a little guilt, heh?)
Why not see these next few weeks as a golden opportunity to teach your munchkin to entertain himself and learn to handle that glorious commodity called “boredom?” After all, your kid is going to be in his own company for the rest of his life – and there’s no better time than now to help him learn to enjoy his own company.
Depending on your child’s age and ability, here are tips to get you started that I shared on the TODAY show.
Tips Help Kids Entertain Themselves
Help Them Learn to Be Alone
A word to the wise: if your kids come back after two minutes of alone time, you may need to first teach your kids how to enjoy their own company.
The truth is some of our kids actually need to learn how to play alone. So start by thing of age-appropriate activities that your child could “do alone.” (For a young child: doing a puzzle; for an older kid: learning to play Solitaire).
The Baby Step Model: Teach your child the “solo activity using the baby step model: First show how to do the game together. Next, watch and guide to ensure he knows the rules. Finally, wean him from you being there until voila! – You step back and your child is playing alone.
Build It In
The reality is you still have to be the boss of free play. At first your kids aren’t going to run off like Tom Sawyer. Put up a calendar where you and your kid mark in regularly scheduled summer activities (like days at summer school, camp, sports or swim lessons). Keep some hours open and point out that those are times when your kid is “free” and on his own.
Ideally you want to find the right balance between “free play vs. adult supervised”; “outdoor play vs. indoor play”; “structured activities vs. unstructured.” Only you will know the right balance for your child, but keep an eye on what your child’s current weekend schedule looks like. Only then will you know which direction to alter that balance.
Set Clear Unplugged Rules
Set a specific limit for TV or video game viewing.
Keep in mind that the average kid aged 8 to 17 is plugged into some kind of electronic device at least 7 ½ hours a day, so weaning your kid away from those video games.
Your first step is to assess just how often your child is “plugged in.”
This weekend take a casual assessment (without your kid knowing you’re monitoring). How many minutes is she watching TV or surfing the net or playing video games? Decide a maximum time allotment and then post those rules ASAP so your kid is clear of those expectations. If not, you may end up with Coach Potato.
Wean From Your Kid Expecting You to Be Chief Entertainer
Of course a toddler can’t occupy his time alone – nor do you want him to. But you will want to gradually start your child weaning away from needing you 24/7 when you see he or she is ready to learn those independent skills–certainly by preschool. Think “baby steps”: just wean him a little bit at a time by encouraging him to handle life slowly and confidently without you.
You gauge your child’s abilities, but remember your parenting goal is to help your child learn to someday live (and play!) without you.
Start with “I’ll be back in one minute—I can’t wait to see what you drew when I return. Surprise me!” Then keep your word, and keep increasing alone time. (You can still be in the room for a young child – just not always managing his every move).
Find Activities To Keep Kids Engaged “Solo Style”
Here are a few solo ideas of activities that will keep your kids engaged. The secret is to tailor the ideas to your child’s attention span, abilities and age when you start child-directed free play.
1. Get a library card.
Profound, eh? The greatest solo activity for a kid is a good book. So encourage your child to read! Enroll your kid in the summer library program. Or…
Get your child a magazine subscription.
Check out books on tape to listen to in the car. (And then discuss them. It’s a great way to boost vocabulary and auditory recall!)
Download a classic onto your tween’s ipod. There are fabulous lists of free downloads on Kindle. I just downloaded The Wizard of Oz to pass a very long plane delay.
Beware: there is a three-month “Summer Slide” when reading scores go down during the summer months. So keep your child reading even if you have to require a certain number of minutes per day when every family member drops everything and reads.
2. Start a hobby.
Summer is a good time to start a child on a hobby. The right match with the right kid often turns into a lifelong love.
The trick is to find one that supports your child’s interests and ability—and is one that he can do alone. You may have to teach him how to get started or enroll him with a tutor or class, but so be it!
Playing a guitar. Knitting. Drawing. Photography. Cooking. Gardening. Coin or stamp collecting. Hobbies not only nurture a child’s talent, but also become a wonderful relaxer, and can last a lifetime!
3. Embrace the great outdoors.
While that sounds simple enough, sometimes kids need a push to get out the door.
Keep a basket filled with fun things that keep kids entertained (bubble blowers, rubber balls, sidewalk chalk, scooters, shovels and pails).
Set up a basketball net.
Give your kid a bag and tell him to go collect something (bugs, leaves, flowers, rocks—collections are great).
Give her a kite building kit.
Hand out plastic cups, spoons and bowls and encourage him to go dig (dirt and water and kids just go together).
Fill a can with water and tell your little kids to paint a fence. (I don’t know why that one works, but it kept my three boys busy for hours).
The truth is many of our kids are “Nature and Play Deprived” which is a tragedy! Thirty years of research proves that outdoor free play is crucial for our kids social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Open the door – show your child the great outdoors!
4. Think boxes…boxes…boxes (did I say boxes?)
The Smithsonian voted the cardboard box as the absolute best toy – ever. I’m with them! Stock up on them – and in every size from small jewelry boxes to refrigerator crates. They’re not only free, but also can provide hours of imaginative play.
Give your kids marking pens and masking tape and they can make igloos, forts, villages, castles, garages, storefronts and hotels. Give them flashlights and they can turn them into caves. Put sheets over the top of boxes and chairs and there’s a whole new dimension.
5. Teach unplugged games.
I love Bobbi Conner’s great book, Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. It’s a parent and teacher must because it’s chock full of fabulous outdoor ideas. It also has dozens of great childhood games like Mother May I, Duck, Duck, Goose, Round Robin that you can teach your child. Just teach it once and your kid can teach the rest of the neighborhood.
And while you’re at it, why not marbles, jacks, and hula hoops? Playground games are great and kids can play them anywhere!
How to Create “Boredom Boxes” to Help Pass the Summer
Start looking around your house for recyclable items and put them into shoeboxes. Save things like tin foil scraps, paper towel tubes, bubble wrap, and popsicle sticks (just keep a bag under your sink). Or clear out your drawers of extra pens, paper clips or scarves. Put a few objects that might go together and the box becomes an instant “mini entertainment centers.” When your child says, “I’m bored, just point to a box.
The best thing is it doesn’t cost a dime, takes you five minutes to put the objects together and keeps your kid occupied for hours. I showed two sample Boredom Boxes on Today segment so if you’re looking for visual cue, just view the tape. Here are a few Boredom Boxes (and there are endless possibilities–be creative and get your kids involved!):
- Picasso Box: Glue, empty toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, paper clips and sheets of tinfoil. (Great for kids who like to do things with their hands)
- Frank Lloyd Wright Box: Hammer, nails, wood pieces, sandpaper (For your more active one-and not for wee ones or kids who do need supervision!)
- Frida Kahlo Box: Paper, crayons, pencils, paint, paintbrush
- Coco Channel Box: Hats, scarves, old shirts, torn sheets, bath towels (for capes) for dress up and pretend.
- Louisa May Alcott Box: Paper, pencils, or a journal.
- Nathan Lane Box: Draw out your kid’s singing, dancing, writing, or acting talent and suggest they write, direct and perform plays (for the neighborhood, their family, or certainly grandma and grandpa.
- Paul McCartney Box: Make musical instruments out of paper tubes, wax paper and a rubber band or put a kazoo inside. Look around your house for any kinds of objects that make fun sounds.
Now the absolute last thing I’m suggesting you do is all this stuff. But why not just trying one new thing this summer? Just one. Stick to a realistic plan that works for your family. And then if one of your kids just dares to say, “I’m bored!” tell them you have the perfect solution. It’s a list of household chores that you just happen to have posted on the fridge. I bet you anything he’ll find something to do.
There! Isn’t it ironic that we have to teach kids how to play and occupy “alone time”? Beware, childhood is being redefined, and it’s not always positive. I’m a big one for kids and lemonade stands, cloud gazing, daisy chains and ball bouncing. I’m also convinced just a little more time in the dirt and water would reduce a lot of kid stress. Hopefully I’m not the only one!
For more resources on this topic, refer to the chapters in The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (by yours truly): Dependence, Separation Anxiety, Fears, Resourceful, Independence,
Posted: June 16th, 2013 by Michele Borba
A new parenting trend shows many men are becoming fathers later in life. The trend, parenting considerations, and the studies I shared on the TODAY show.
“My father didn’t tell me how to live;
he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~ Clarence Budington Kelland
I sat down with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show and discussed a fascinating subject: “Do older men make better dads?” (Full disclosure: I readily admit to being a bit biased. I am the product of an incredible dad who waited quite a while to marry–a war entered into the pictured and a delay in the wedding–then voila….I finally arrived). But there appears to be a a new parenting trend emerging: men are waiting to father later in life. Just a few celebrity examples include: Elton John Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson, Rod Stewart, David Letterman, Mick Jagger, Clint Eastwood, Larry King, Steve Martin and Donald Trump.
Why the new trend? A number of reasons cited for the increase are due mostly to today’s society such as delaying marriage and child bearing to jumpstart that career and a high divorce rate, And then there’s that factoid that many older men are marrying younger women. (Hmmmm. I’m not going there). The wonders of science and medical advancements have also increased life expectancies. But regardless of cause, it appears many men are simply living longer and are deciding to start families later in life. (There’s also a whole special category called “S.O.D.” which stands for “Start Over Dads” –though I’m sure their first wives might have another name for it–and are starting a second and later family altogether).
Three Fascinating Facts About Older Dads
Perhaps the fascinating part is that research suggests that older dads are actually better at fathering. To be fair, this is such a new phenomenon and all the data isn’t complete, but it’s enough for us to review and believe me, have some very interesting discussions. Here are just three of the most titillating findings about older dads gathered from several studies that I shared on TODAY:
1. Older Dads Are More Involved In Child Rearing
No more absentee dads here. These men are visible and want to be actively involved in raising Junior. And that is always a huge plus to the kiddos. One of the highest correlations of children who do well in life is that they had actively involved fathers in their lives. Kids with involved dads generally have higher self-esteem, more confidence, are more secure, handle stress better, and display more empathy.
2. Older Dads Are More Nurturing
Older dads are often warmer, more generous with affection, and more nurturing to their kids. Some of this may be due to a drop in testosterone levels, but regardless the studies show that these older men are more likely to be mellower, more relaxed, and appear to be much calmer in their parenting.
3. Older Dads Are More Willing To Share Child Responsibility
This one is sure to make mothers cringe (especially their first wives and children), but studies always show that older dads tend to share in more of the daily child rearing tasks than younger fathers. In fact, older dads are three times more likely to be be active care-givers than younger dads.
The Disadvantages of Being an Older Dad
Now there are also disadvantages to fathering at an older age, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include them. There are milder issues like the embarrassment when you’re introduced as “Grandpa” at those school events or trying to bond with other dads who are 20, 30, (or even 40 years younger).
Scientific evidence also warns of more serious genetic risks to the unborn to later fathering including a rise in birth defects, dwarfism, autism, schizophrenia, pre-term birth and a list of other genetic diseases in their offspring.
Health concerns with advancing age are also a risk. Many men admit that the possibility of dying before their child grows up is their most pressing worry. Interviews with these fathers also point out that though the “mortality issue” weighed heavily on them, their decision to have children was always a conscious, deliberate choice. (Amen on that one).
The researchers concluded the older fathers for the most part are far more reflective about parenting than their younger counterparts. Most of these older dads admitted that during their “first round of fathering,” they were too caught up in their careers and didn’t spend time with their children. Suddenly the kids were grown and they realized that they missed out on the most important role of their lives–”Daddying” and vowed to not make the same mistake again. Here are a few tips I shared with Matt Lauer:
~ Be Sure To Introduce Yourself As “Dad”
Just a firm, confident, “Hi, I’m the father of this great kid,” will do. Better to introduce yourself correctly than have to point out you’re not Grandpa.
~ Don’t Stress The Stuff You Can’t Do
Forget camping out in that pup tent with your child on those scouting overnighters. You’ll hate yourself the next morning. Playing those rough, quick game of hoops on the asphalt won’t do much for your knees either. Don’t stress over what you can no longer do with your child.
~ Focus On Activities You Can Share with Your Child
Attend those musical, ballgames, movies, and dinners with your kids. Find and do the things you will enjoy together.
~ Spend Quality Time Together
Kids really spell love as T.I.M.E. together. Keep doing what you’re already doing with your child. The most effective quality of a good parent is the relationship he has with his child.
Whether you agree that men should father later in life, research shows that these older dads are taking their parenting role very seriously–and loving every minute. For the most part they are also more patient, nurturing, and more involved with their kids than younger fathers or when they were first time dads themselves. It also appears that with age comes wisdom.
I guess the real $64,000 question is: “Why does it take so long to figure out what really matters most in life: savoring the time with our kids and making every moment count?”
Posted: June 10th, 2013 by Michele Borba
Parenting tips to help kids feel more confident away from home sweet home –whether it be a camp, sleepover, or playdate–based on the latest research
Mooommm… I want to come home! NOW!
But can’t you pleassse pick me up? I hate it here!
I don’t care how much you paid. Come get me now!
Ah the joys of camp …or that weekend with Grandma. Right? And we wanted our kids to come back sooo excited from their first time away from home.
I’ll never forget sending my son to camp the first time. I’d combed the brochures to find just the perfect camp (or so I thought). Purchased the world’s best (or so said the store manager) sleeping bag and so-called “camp paraphernalia.” Said the right goodbyes! thought I did all the right things. He lasted forty-eight hours, before I finally drove to pick him up.
We tried again (at his suggestion) the following year, but this time I didn’t focus on the sleeping bag. I put my energy instead on preparing him for that first extended time away so he would feel more secure. And ……success! He loved camp, made new friends, and couldn’t wait to go back again and again and again.
If only I’d read the research on homesickness the first time I sent him, but the studies on how parents can prevent homesickness hadn’t been published.
Well, finally child development researchers have discovered what we parents can do to help our kids feel more confident away from home sweet home. And just in time.
Summer is usually the time when we send our kids to stay at Grandmas, with their friends, or off to camp. So if you’re getting ready to send your child away from for just the night or for a more extended time, here are some research-based pointers to help your child–and you–have a fun time and great memories.
Be sure your kid is ready
Is your child sleeping in her own bed through the night or is she climbing in with you at two o’clock in the morning? Does she have any problems separating from you when she goes to school, the baby-sitters, or day care? Does your child get along with this kid well enough to spend a whole night together? Does she feel comfortable with the child’s parents?
If not, forget sending her away to that pricey two-week camp. Chances are she won’t make it through day one.
A survey conducted by Sesame Street found that most parents say children are old enough to spend the night at around the age of seven. Do keep in mind that the age is not set in stone: it all depends on the child and you are the one who knows your child best.
Do a practice run
For a reluctant child, have the first sleepover be at your home. It sometimes helps if your child uses the same “security items” (for a real sleepover at your home first. Or try having your child spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa or a special cousin.
Find a buddy
Any buddy!!! Research says kids always feel more secure away from home if they know at least one other child. It could be a child she knows from her hometown (and she doesn’t have to be best friends with the kid), or ask the camp counselor to give you an email address or phone number of a similar-aged child as yours. Maybe they can connect before you drop her off.
Pack a few “security items”
A few packed items can make even the most anxious kid more comfortable. For instance: a flashlight if she fears the dark or staying in a strange house; a granola bar or sandwich (in case they “hate” the meal); a sleeping bag with a rubber sheet tucked inside might help a bed wetter feel more comfortable just in case he has an accident; their own pillow or blanket; even a cell phone for reassurance that she can call you anytime if really needed. Think of what might make your child feel safer. Better yet, have your child think up what he needs to feel more at home.
Meet the counselors or parents
No matter how old your child is, do meet the camp counselors or parents face to face. You want to be sure they will be supervising the whole night, have your phone number handy, and clarify that if there are any problems you want to be called.
“Show off” the cool activities
Other than finding one buddy to “hang with” the next thing researchers say what alleviates homesickness is involvement in an activity (tennis, crafts, kayaking, swimming, beading…anything). If you can get your child excited about one activity he will be more likely to feel a little more comfortable. And he’ll have something to look forward to doing.
Have a positive send-off
Be cheerful and optimistic as you pack and get ready to go. Do wait until your child looks settled. Give her a big hug and kiss. Then leave. But researchers stress to curb homesickness: “Do not linger.”
Breathe when the phone call comes
Homesickness is normal. It is far more prevalent with younger kids and those who have never been away from home. It is also common with college-aged kids. So don’t go thinking your child is not adjusted if you get that “MOMM!!! I hate it here!” call. Instead, listen. Just listen. Telling her to get over it, or it will get better, doesn’t seem to work (says the research again).
Don’t promise you’ll call her 50 times a day either. Bad move again says researchers. You can tell her to call again tomorrow. Listen to the tone in her voice. Talk to the camp counselor (without her knowing). And then make your decision (can she wait it out – or it is better to pick her up) based on your child.
So what if your kid doesn’t make it all through the night? If you want this to work in the long run, emphasize the positive accomplishment. “You stayed there two hours past your bedtime. That was much longer than last time.” “It’s not a big deal. You’ll have lots of opportunities to spend the night at friends’ houses again.” There’s always next year!
Tips to Help Kids Be Away from Home With Confidence
Whenever your child is invited to be an overnight guest at someone’s house, you’ll to find out the answers to these questions to make sure he feels comfortable about being there.
- Time frame. What time should I arrive and when will I be leaving?
- Supplies. What should I bring? Should I bring my own sleeping bag? Do I need any special clothing?
- Other kids. Will there be other kids staying over night? If so, who? What adults will be around?
- Activities. What will we be doing? Is there a plan?
- Eating. What will we do for food? Should I eat before I come over or will there be dinner, snacks, breakfast?
- Special concerns. Do you have any pets? Where does the dog sleep? Is anyone else a vegetarian?
I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books. You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news about child development
Posted: June 3rd, 2013 by Michele Borba
REALITY CHECK: Alarming USDA Stats about American hunger
More than 50 million Americans live in food insecure households
More than 16 million of those impacted by food insecurity are children
Over the past two years, I have had the pleasure of working alongside Walmart and the Walmart Foundation in their efforts to help children and families across the U.S. live better, healthier lives.
I first worked with Walmart in June 2012, helping them announce $20 million in grants to six national nonprofits that create opportunities for children to enjoy smarter, healthier and more productive summers. This work meant a great deal to me as I knew from my experience as a teacher that summer is a critical time for the continued health and development of our nation’s youth.
Working together with Walmart and its nonprofit partners, we were able to raise awareness of this critical time of year known as the “summer slump” and help 180,000 kids access nutrition, learning and employment programs in 350 communities nationwide.
I also joined Walmart’s April Fighting Hunger Together Campaign, during which we worked to tackle the issue of hunger in America. Hunger can have an extremely negative impact on the psychological and physical development of children.
Walmart continued the fight against this spring by donating $3 million in grants for hunger programs and generating more than 35 million meals for local Feeding America food banks and their partner agencies across the United States.
Walmart has just reached a historic milestone, being the first retailer to reach $1 billion in-cash and in-kind donations over the past year.
I am honored to have been a part of their mission to help people live better! This summer I’ll be working again with them to help ensure that once those school doors close thousands of our American kids will still be receiving healthy lunches.
Thanks a Billion Walmart!
Learn about the April Fighting Hunger Together Campaign:
Posted: May 31st, 2013 by Michele Borba
Tips to help our digital natives learn to talk … not text … and even converse!!! WOW!
Here’s the hot parenting question for today (at least the one I’m asked quite frequently): “How do you boost communication skills with today’s digital natives who would rather text than talk?” It’s a great question. So here’s today’s Reality Check: Today’s kids send and receive an average of 88 texts a day (Pew).
We know that effective communication is critical for boosting our relationship with our kids. We also know that children who are know how to listen are often kids who are well-liked. Communication skills are also core for boosting our children’s confidence, leadership skills, relationship success as well as in their career.
Here’a four-part formula I learned way back when I was working on my doctorate. It still is one of the most effective formulas that invites kids to talk as well as strengthen family ties. Of course, the best way to learn any new skill is by modeling and practicing!
Do remember to set “sacred, unplugged family times when there nothing “plugged in” is allowed–only face-to-face communication!
A Four-Part Formula That Invites Kids to Talk..Not Text
Using the technique of active listening is one of the easiest as well as most powerful ways to encourage kids to encourage your child to speak up and share his feelings, ideas and experiences. The best lessons in active listening I learned not from a textbook or class but from my son, Adam, when he was just two. Whenever we would talk, he had a habit of taking my chin in his hand and pulling my face towards him, so my eyes were directly in front of his face. His actions were crystal clear: Adam wanted my complete attention. The way he knew I was listening was by seeing my eyes exclusively on his eyes. That’s what our kids want most–knowing we’re really listening and interested in what they have to say. Using active listening with our kids conveys that message to them.
Here’s a four-part formula for using active listening adapted from the work of outstanding communication experts, Dr. Thomas Gordon and Dr. Haim Ginott. As with any technique, learning the formula takes practice and effort, but the benefits are enormous for enhancing your family’s communication. It’s also a wonderful way to develop a warmer and more intimate relationship with your child. And, best yet, watching you do it is the best way for your child to recognize what good listening behaviors look and sound like. He’ll be more likely to use the skill in his own life.
Part 1. Listen with Full Attentiveness
Eleven-year-old Yuki came back from gymnastics quite upset and sank into the couch. Seeing her daughter’s distress, her mom quickly put down her book, sat facing her, and gently took her hand. She wanted her daughter to know she was completely there for her.
Yuki’s mom is demonstrating the first part of active listening: stop everything and focus completely on your child so he feels you’re hearing him. Your full attentiveness makes it easier for your child to talk, and keeps your lines of communication open.
Part 2. Offer a Word to Encourage the Dialogue
“I’m never going back there again,” cried Yuki. “Oh?” her mom said and waited to see if her daughter would say anything more. When she didn’t, she simply restated the last thing Yuki said, “You’re never going back.” “That’s for sure, never!” exclaimed her daughter. “All my teacher does is yell at me, because I can’t do anything right.”
The second part of active listening is usually the hardest: don’t interrupt your child or offer any opinion. Your silence at this stage can be golden. The fact you’re there to listen is usually all your child really needs. Besides, the last thing kids want to hear is our advice. To let him know you’re interested, just offer a nonjudgmental word or two to encourage his talking such as: “Oh?”, “I see…”, “Really?”, or even “Mmmm.” Dr. Thomas Gordon, renown communication authority, also suggests simply repeating back your child’s last phrase:
Child: “I can’t stand being around Kevin this year.”
Adult: “You can’t stand being around Kevin.”
Child: “You bet I can’t. He’s so bossy and mean all the time.”
Part 3. Reflect the Message’s Feeling Content to Your Child
Yuki’s mom wondered if the class would be too hard. Now she knew. The distraught look on her daughter’s face crushed her, so she said, “You look so upset, Yuki.” And then she waited for her daughter’s reaction to see if she was right. It didn’t take long, “You bet I’m upset. How would you feel if your teacher picked on you in front of all the other kids?”
When you recognize how your child is feeling, describe the feeling to your child, “Looks like you’re angry.”, “You seem really frustrated.”, “Sounds like you’re irritated.”, or “You seem unhappy.” This simple act helps keep your dialogue open, because your child knows you’re really trying to understand him.
The biggest communication stopper parents make at this point is trying to solve the problem for their kids. So, don’t say anything for a few seconds and wait for your child to answer. Usually your child will tell you you’re either wrong or right, and you can respond to his reaction. Either way, the communication between you continues, which is exactly what you want to happen.
Part 4. Reassure Your Child With Empathy
Yuki’s mom gently put her arm around her daughter and said, “I’m so sorry you had such a bad day.” “The class is just too hard, Mom,” Yuki sighed. “Do you think I can maybe enroll in another class instead?” Her mom smiled. That’s just what she was thinking and said, “That’s a great idea, Yuki. Let’s look into it first thing after school tomorrow. Thanks for telling me your problem.” And Yuki gave her mom a quick hug and ran off to call her friend.
End your conversation with a response that conveys your support: “I hope things work out.”, “I’m so sorry.”, or “I’m here if you need me.” Wait to see if your child needs anything else: advice, a hug, reassurance, or even a quick game of hoops, and thank your child for sharing.
I find the hardest part of active listening is not giving my advice unless my kids ask for it. Sometime the urge is so strong, I have to say inside my head, “Don’t say anything. Be quiet.” And I’m always glad I did.
I find by being quiet my kids are more talkative and generally solve their own problems just because they talked it through aloud. I’m sure my goal is the same as yours: to always to keep the communication doors open so my kids will feel comfortable coming back and telling me anything!
Portions of this blog were adapted from my book, Parents DO Make a Difference.
For more about me see my website, Dr. Michele Borba