Communication: The first step to effective parenting

Parenting today comes with many challenges – we have even more to cope with than our parents and grandparents had explains Bernadette Ruane, Relationship and Parenting Mentor and a mother of three teenagers.

Many of us don’t live near family and may not have the same support available to us; there may be additional financial demands and so on and the challenge of balancing work and home life can often seem overwhelming. When we learn to listen to our own needs, we can then be there for our children and teenagers. As parents, our focus is on supporting the relationship, with ourselves and with our child. When we take time to listen to our children, it helps to build a strong connection and relationship, allowing you to enjoy each other more.

We are always communicating and the child who misbehaves is likely doing so out of anger and frustration. Imagine their relief, if we could simply sit and validate how they feel! All behaviour makes sense and the child is trying to tell us something. A child is not trying to make life difficult for us but instead is showing us how difficult life is for them. Our job as parents is to take time to listen to our children without judgement or a need to fix or advise. This isn’t always easy and at times we need to remind ourselves to simply listen. No matter what age our children are, the benefits will be immense. It can also offer a sense of relief to us as parents, when we can let go of the expectation to fix the situation.

Allowing our children to speak about what’s on their mind gives them the opportunity to explore the options available to them. If a child has a temper tantrum they may not be able to talk about what is going on for them until much later. The power of being listened to and having their feelings validated can offer a feeling of support and increase a sense of inner confidence and general wellness. It can also serve to reduce the level of shame that may occur after a tantrum. When we listen, we create a sense of safety in our relationships where our children will feel they can communicate with us in a more open relaxed way. With social media, children and teens may feel as if they are constantly being scrutinised and monitored; imagine the pressure of feeling we have to be a certain way and being constantly judged for how we look. As parents, we are in a unique position that we can hold our children exactly where they are without judgement – it’s a gift in itself.

Take advantage of the natural opportunities that may present themselves during the day, such as when we drive to activities or perhaps while doing the dishes at home, it is often while doing these simple tasks that the child or teenager may be more likely to open up and talk to us. If our children get a sense of us being present when they relate the more mundane events to us, chances are they will more likely talk to us when something significant is happening for them.

It may be helpful to create some healthy boundaries around mobile phone use for us as parents, as well as for our children. My own children recently brought it to my attention that I’m ‘always’ on my phone and hence not available. I now place it on airplane mode for a couple of hours in the evening; it’s actually an immense relief. Creating healthy boundaries together around the use of technology is a wonderful opportunity for communication. Have a conversation with your teen or child so that both the parent and the child can be heard; then together a consensus can be reached, as what feels right for both of you.

So give it a try, turn off and switch on. Create opportunities to communicate with your children – you’ll be amazed what you will learn.

Key points:

• Our Children are always communicating with us whether through their words or their behaviour.

• Meet them where they are at in that moment without judgement.

• Resist the temptation to advise – it can serve to ‘add vice’ to an often already stressful situation. Find moments to communicate with your children, be it while driving or doing simple tasks together.

• Parenting is the most challenging, worthwhile job we will ever do.

Bernadette Ruane offers parenting courses, as well as individual sessions. There are currently places available on her parenting course ‘Effective Parenting for a Modern World’, which takes place in Clonakilty starting Wednesday January 22. Places are limited, early booking advised. E-mail or call 086-343-7006.

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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