According to tradition, the first Thanksgiving holiday became a monumental occasion marketing the intersection of two cultures—the Native Americans and the Pilgrims settling in the New World. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims survive particularly harsh times, helping them understand how to farm the land, trap food, and many other critical techniques that would’ve cost many more lives if the Pilgrims had been left to their own devices.
Despite their difference and many ongoing challenges, these two unique cultures were able to connect and communicate in valuable ways. Let’s take this larger idea and bring it over to the challenges that parents can have trying to connect and communicate with their kids. Aside from the obvious age difference, there are many other variables that can impose a seemingly impassable divide between adults and children—but it doesn’t have to be that way!
Are you struggling to connect with your kids? How can you bridge that communication gap? Here are some steps to take:
- Listen! – It may seem counter-intuitive, but if your kids know you’re actively listening, they can become more intentional about communicating with you in return. If they think you’re just tuning them out or not really considering what they’re saying, there are few faster ways to shut down conversations.
- Temper reactions – Kids are emotional creatures (well, we all are, but children are often more high energy and highly emotive in how they communicate). As such, they can provoke more knee-jerk emotional responses in adults, depending on what’s being discussed. If your kids are getting you riled, making you defensive or angry, communicating in such an aggressive tone is another sure-fire way to shut them down. Take time to process how you’re feeling and soften your responses.
- Is being right worth it? – You’ve heard the age-old advice of choosing your battles, yes? It’s just as valid when communicating with your kids. Sometimes arguing for the sake of arguing, arguing to “win” the verbal battle or because you know you’re in the right…it just isn’t worth the effort or what you end up sacrificing in your child’s self-esteem.
When you come to interacting with your children on the basis that their opinions and statements are equally as valid as yours—versus thinking of them as the opposition or even the enemy to be defeated—it can set you up for far healthier communication now and in the years to come. What have you tried in the past when aiming to bridge the parent/child cultural gap? Has it worked well for you so far?