When I talk about my girls to my friends, they often comment that our children are so open to us. When they’re around our family, they get amused seeing and hearing the girls share random stuff with us, from movies to outfits, to school stuff, to boys, to church stuff, to dreams and the future. I love hearing my girls say about other friends who also are pretty open to their parents, that “they’re like us.” I’m so grateful that somehow we have built this kind of culture with our girls. It has its drawbacks too of course, but I would rather have different kinds of conversations with them than none at all. By the grace of God, we will get better and better at communicating with one another.
Let me attempt to give you some tips on how to build this kind of culture in your home.
First, TAKE INTEREST. Ask your kids how they are. Show them you’re interested in who they are, what they like, what they don’t. Make it a habit to be present and talk, so that they get used to this dynamic early on. Pleasant conversations with mom and dad are a great start. USE TECHNOLOGY to communicate with them too, so that even when you are not physically together, you still talk.
KEEP IT CASUAL. Yes, ask them about their day and all that, but also tell them how your day went. Like you’re talking to a friend. Kwento lang. “Hey, guess what!” Or “Alam mo ba….” Model communication to them. Watch how the conversation turns too. Sometimes an opportunity will open for you to teach, and you can do so while keeping it casual. Use your own experiences that they might be able to relate to. Informal. Normal. Open-ended even.
When they want to talk, LET THEM TALK. You LISTEN. Listen before you respond. Don’t assume anything, but acknowledge them. Then respond, but DON’T OVERREACT, so the conversation keeps going. Overreacting with annoyance, anger or disgust will just cause them to clam up. Ask the right questions so you can get to the heart of a matter, if there is a matter to get to the bottom of. Otherwise, just enjoy the convo. Laugh and be silly with them! Keep it light. Not everything needs to turn into a lecture. (I hear my kids in my head saying, “yeeaaahh moooom.” 😂)
DON’T BE AFRAID WHEN THEY ASK QUESTIONS. They will pose all kinds, even from toddler age. And I admit, some questions will really be awkward for you. But you have to appear as if you are not fazed by any of it. This may not be easy at times, and you’re gonna have to fake it till you make it. They need to see that you can handle it. Welcome their inquisitiveness, even if you don’t know the right answer. You can call a friend to help you out! (My husband calls me when it’s about sex 😂, because we have girls.) Or better yet, prepare for the FAQs, especially those of the pre-teen and teen. Go ask someone who knows better and whose word you trust.
Remember that you set the tone of your conversation with your kids. If you are awkward, they will be awkward. If they see you being receptive to their candor, they will be more inclined to be brave. Be ready for the tough questions so that you can encourage them to not be afraid. And be okay with not knowing all the answers. They will appreciate your honesty. But do the work. Seek wisdom and counsel, and go back to your kids and give them your best answer.
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF STRONG EMOTIONS. There will be times for serious conversations. You must stay strong and don’t take their words personally. Look beyond the expressions and the hurtful words. You can do this even while you are also having strong emotions. Remember that what they present usually is not the real issue. DO NOT WALK AWAY. Stay and ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS to draw out the truth. ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT to help you. Your compassion for your child should switch on (hopefully sooner rather than later). Be understanding, not judgy.
KEEP THE LOVE INTACT. No matter how strained or stressful the conversation gets because of the strong emotions, remember that you are talking to someone you love. Be careful with your words. SEEK THE TRUTH, BUT ALSO PURSUE PEACE. Your children need to be assured that no matter what they think, say, or do, you love them. Because many times the issue will not get resolved in one conversation, it’s crucial that the communication lines stay open. It will stay open if you keep the love intact.
BE DELIBERATE IN WHAT YOU PLANT IN YOUR CHILDREN. Sow good ideas, sow godly thoughts, sow faith-filled words. Sow God’s Word. Sow joy and laughter. Sow time. Sow memories. Do things together so you have plenty to talk about. Make sure the good memories always outweigh the bad. The hope is that when they look at their relationship with you, they remember the good more than the imperfections. That even though there is tension because of an issue, they will still choose forgiveness and peace between the two of you.
NORMALIZE SEEKING HELP. When you are overwhelmed, talk to someone. Unload. Process your emotions. When you don’t know what to do, ask for advice. Listen to other people’s stories. Get wisdom. Get encouragement. Get people to stand with you in prayer as well. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Indeed. Community is invaluable. Your children will thank you (maybe not right away 😂, but one day) because with the right help, you become a better parent.
Hope this helps. God bless you, mommies and daddies!
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39