Talking With Your Children

Last week I reviewed the What’s Happening to Our Boys? AT RISK How the new technologies, drugs and alcohol, peer pressure and porn affect our boys. It certainly provided me with some insight into the types of behaviours my sons will be exposed to.

A couple of clear take away messages for me were:

  1. Talking to your kids in a respectful and considered manner is critical, for them to then come to you if they have issues.
  2. My own consumer behaviour and technology patterns will have a significant influence on my boys.

At the moment I am in the position that my boys will talk openly with me. I am aware that with the older two that there is a certain degree of topic and subject matter selection on their part and that they will often be giving me “their” side of a particular story. However both will ask me questions about sex and meaning of words that they have overheard in the school yard or football field.

I am yet to hit the teenage years, so still have many years of learning to come on how to keep the communication open between myself and my sons, but I have listed below some things that are so far working for us. Although through my experience, they are related to boys, but I imagine that many of them would also apply to girls too.

  • Start early – Engaging boys in meaningful discussions from when they are young, so this becomes a well formed habit. Expecting to be able to just do this once they get older is not going to happen.
  • Common ground – Take an interest to understand what it is that they like. For me a great way to do this has been understanding Fantasy Football and the World Cup. I also make an effort to read the books that they are reading so I can discuss it with them.
  • Timing – It is great when they come to you and talk, but if you want to discuss something with them, think about the timing. If you try to do it just before their favourite TV show starts then you can be assured it will be a pretty short conversation.
  • Focus – If you are trying to change a behaviour or address an issue, make sure you have a defined focus. Don’t try discussing too many issues at once.
  • Listen – When they come to you, they are not always looking for you to solve their problems. Listen to what they say first, before jumping in.
  • Share – Talk about your experiences at their age. It is probably best to leave out subjects that they may classify as TMI (too much information). They look up to you and it is good for them to know that you are not perfect, have made mistakes, have felt disappointed, been left out etc.
  • Active – Walking and talking, running and talking, driving in the car and talking are often scenarios in which boys feel more comfortable opening up. There isn’t the direct looking into the face element for them to worry about.
  • Acknowledge – Taking the time to thank them for talking and acknowledging that they have expressed themselves emotionally. This helps them know that you were really listening to them and encourages them to continue to talk to you.

What would you add to this list?