With the rise in episodes of children being kidnapped, sexually abused, taking to drugs, turning anorexic etc., parents find themselves at a loss as to ways to address the situation. Before we find ourselves amidst such undesirable circumstances, it might be worth thinking about what we can do to pre-empt the situation now.
So, what do we do? In most of these situations, the answer is really simple as it is in any relationship in the world – building a culture of communication. Yes, communication is a culture that one can nurture within a house. There are a few elements that go into building this as a culture.
The first, of course, is a no-brainer – being present. Are you already thinking about how hectic your work is at office and at home and how you would love to but are not able to be present for your child? Well, think again. Being present is about being able to demonstrate your intention to be there. Try making time during meals or at bedtime or in the morning. Many times, presence needs to be scheduled. Schedule it on your calendar if that is what it takes. Do you call from work or when you are traveling and make it a point to talk to your child, irrespective of your child’s age? Afraid they might miss you more? Don’t be. Take the risk. Your being there means more to them than your not being there for sure. At least once a day, for just a few minutes, are you able to be present for your child? If not, perhaps it might be worth a think as to what gets in the way?
The second part of building a culture of communication is to talk. Yes, sure, talk about yourself. Talk about your day. How was it? What did you do? What did you learn? Did something funny happen? Did you miss your child at work? Are you planning a vacation? When you talk, you are opening the door to sharing. If you expect your child to report everything that happens every day without setting the precedent by sharing some bits of your day with your child, think again. So, yes, start talking yourself first.
The third element of a culture of communication as we all know is, listening. It is, however, not as simple as it sounds. You might be responding in monosyllables or say ‘hmm’ while you are busy with your laptop or phone or newspaper and you might like to believe that you are listening. Well, not quite. Listening, many times, is also about listening to what your child is not saying. It might start with your observing their body language, drooping face or an upcoming tantrum and might mean that you need to sit down and ask you child a question. ‘What happened’?
Speak words and you will get words. Ask questions and you will get answers. Keep waiting for a child to initiate a conversation and opportunities for communication will fly by, walls will be built, which may only grow higher as time passes by. Be purposeful about building a culture of communication at home. Just start talking!
This blog post is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge, one of India’s leading parenting magazines.