How Open Conversations With Kids Promote Healthy Relationships
Sep 27, 2019
As children turn into pre-teens, then teenagers, their bodies and the way they think changes. It’s important to connect with your child during these transitions to promote healthy body image, boundaries and relationships. Here’s how you can have meaningful connections and conversations with your child.
Be a Role Model
When your child was young, you probably noticed how they copied your actions. This doesn’t change as they grow older. Children often look to their parents to learn how to think and react to situations and experiences. Showing your child that you value yourself teaches them to value themselves. Take time to practice self-care so you maintain confidence and healthy relationships your child can mirror.
Create a Space for Safe Conversations
It can be difficult to have tough conversations with your child. First, consider your own experiences. Think about how you may have felt or responded when you were your child’s age. Is the conversation you’re having something you discussed in your home when you were young? If so, think about what worked and what didn’t.
Next, find a way to connect the conversation to a special memory or experience you and your child share. This helps build more meaningful discussion. By relating the conversation to an emotional experience, your child is more likely to listen and respond appropriately to what is being said.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Without even realizing it, our bodies convey a lot about our thoughts and feelings to others. It is important when having conversations with your child to recognize what your body might be saying – and what their body language is saying to you. Sit facing your child at a table, on the couch or anywhere that creates a comfortable environment for you both.
When hearing something you may not want to hear, consider if your reaction may be visible on your face. Maintaining eye contact and a neutral expression will allow your child to feel comfortable and safe when talking to you. The way you speak also plays an important part in your conversation. How parents provide information can be just as important as what is being said. Keep a calm, even voice and your child will follow your lead.
Practice Power With, Not Power Over
Research shows that parents who use authoritarian parenting styles had children who were more likely to be exposed to inappropriate behavior and experience harassment. Instead of trying to control and overpower your child, try to maintain an open dialogue and set expectations together. Setting healthy boundaries up front will keep you connected and keep your child making healthy choices about their health and safety.
Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, coordinates community outreach and marketing for Nationwide Children's Hospital Teen and Pregnant Program, BC4Teens birth control clinic, and the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes collaborative.
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