Raising my children in a world where knowledge is rapidly increasing I need to make sure that they have the skills to manoeuvre. It is important that they can make right decisions on their own.
As they grew, I noticed my son the extrovert loves being around people, but he was also mirroring some of the behaviours of his friends. My daughter liked to people-please too. Helping them to change and become more confident among their peers was going to take more than telling them. There was a deliberate process that I needed to follow, because I needed to give them the tools they would need to make good decisions.
Building an atmosphere of trust
I wanted them to trust me with the information they were learning while with friends. However, it was more than asking them to share. I had to be purposeful in constructing the kind of relationship that would help them feel safe enough to share everything with me.
I began by having age appropriate discussions about a variety of subjects. At about age five a friend introduced them to the word “sex.” My son came home and asked me what it meant.
It was that moment for a parent where you battle between panic and disappointment. I was going to have a conversation earlier than I wanted to, and disappointed that he was introduced to it before I thought appropriate.
I was homeschooling partly to shield them from unfavourable influences. I wanted my husband and myself, as much as possible, to be the ones teaching and giving this kind of knowledge.
We talked about appropriate words. I used the analogy of going to the supermarket and paying the cashier after we have finished picking up our groceries. I stressed that we didn’t pay before because that would be the wrong way round. I assured him that while sex is not a bad word, it was not a word for children to be using, and asked him to trust that Mommy would talk to him about it when the time was right. He promised to wait to speak to me.
As a parent, having these conversations can be hard. Since that day I have had many conversations where I am terrified inside while remaining calm on the outside.
I do not shame or interrogate. I asked questions and have discussions in a non-threatening way.
It is important when dealing with difficult subjects to keep the lines of communication open. An honest conversation conveys comfort and safety.
Ask open questions and use active listening skills, such as paraphrasing and summarizing. Active listening will communicate your understanding and give them the feeling of being heard.
Our formative years greatly impact the way we parent. If you are aware of unresolved childhood challenges, it is important to get support to work through them. Use support that is safe and non-judgmental.
Developing a relationship of trust and openness with children is long-term work. However, it is well worth the investment.