Mar 9, 2011

How to Open the Door and Get Your Children Talking

By Selena Cruz George, P.E.T. Program Manager

Many parents feel that after a certain age, their children simply stop talking to them about what is going on in their lives. After years of unresolved conflicts, hostility, punishment and "You-Messages", teens in particular will sometimes "fire" their parents and cease communicating on a deeper level during those very important adolescent years. When the conversation between children and their parents stops, the growing divide created between them causes damaging effects to the health of their relationship and to the child.

The remedy for this doesn't need to include years of therapy and psychoanalysis.

In his book, the Miracle of Dialouge, Reuel L. Howe says: Indeed, this is the miracle of dialogue: it can bring a relationship into being, and it can bring into being once again a relationship that has died.

One of the most productive and beneficial ways of listening and responding to your child's feelings, is coming from a place of acceptance and inviting them to say more, otherwise known as a "door-opener". These invitations to talk are responses that do not include any judgement, feelings, questions or advice. They are simply a way to get them to share more of their feelings with you.

Some examples of "door-openers" are:
  • "Interesting!"
  • "Mm-hmm."
  • "I'd like to hear more about it."
  • "Sounds like you've got something to say about this."
  • "This seems like something important to you."
  • "Tell me more.
These types of responses are encouraging words to get your child start or continue talking. It's important to put your Active Listening skills into action here and steer clear of giving any Roadblocks. Your thoughts and feelings should not be included in this communication process.

Careful not to "slam the door shut" once you have opened it, which can leave you worse off than where you started! Particularly when first trying Active Listening, some parents give it up too soon in the conversation because they don't like what they are hearing. Allow your child to feel completely accepted by you by giving them the chance to work through their own problems.

This will create a stronger and more loving relationship between parents and their children as well as optimize your child's problem-solving skills and build self-esteem.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your feedback!

1 comment:

  1. I have used these door-openers and empathy with my 12 year old daughter since she was little and it has really paid off. I'm the first person she wants to tell important things after a tough day at school. I have taught parenting classes for 6 years and focus on this concept in my classes. Many parents just want to "fix" their child's negative feelings. When I ask the parents in my classes what they most want from their spouse/partner they say someone who listens and doesn't offer advice - someone who "gets" them. Why is it so hard for adults to do this for children and not constantly tell them things like "everything is okay, calm down, don't worry about it, etc." If we as adults slow down and give children time with their thoughts, it's amazing what we will hear.


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