“Time for dinner!” Mom yells up the stairs…that’s how the family used to communicate, says Jenn Kaye, Communication and Relationship Expert. Now, in this sophisticated day of gadgets and computers, we have twitter, Facebook, blogs, texting, YouTube…the list goes on and on for ways families can communicate.
How families stay connected is easy with all these different tools but making sure the family stays CONNECTED as a family unit is a much bigger challenge. She has several tips for families that can help make life easier in this age of perpetual connection and virtual expression.
Parents lead the way – kids don’t know how to be marketed to and will ask for everything they are exposed to. Parents need to take the lead and guide their children toward healthy communication methods such as which cellphone is appropriate for their needs and if they are ready to be online with Facebook or MySpace.
Set healthy parameters – it is up to parents to teach their kids how to use the communication device they are given. Make sure you communicate with them about family ground rules. If you only want them to use the phone for emergencies and for calling you when they need a ride home, set that ground rule early. Let them know what the consequences are if they disrespect that rule, such as they lose the phone for a month.
Respectful time use – while Kaye says a nightly dinner together may be next to impossible, she does recommend trying to carve out one night a week where everyone is home for dinner. Shop, cook and set the table for the meal together. Make sure you impress upon your children that this time is for the family, and no other. Kaye suggests a basket be kept in the other room where everyone (this means you too, Mom and Dad) puts their cellphones in before arriving at the table. Some of the questions she suggests to stimulate good conversations:
These questions make your child feel important. They understand you are listening. This also helps them learn both interpersonal skills by talking to adults, and critical thinking skills about why things are important to them or why things are challenging them.
Set boundaries about being online – it’s appropriate to have a conversation with your child about what is appropriate and not appropriate when they are online and how long they may be on the computer at a sitting. Kaye says “Be curious, not critical” about what your child is posting. You can tell your child you are there to help make their experience positive and safe. Kaye says you are “teaching them versus telling them.” Keeping them safe is a priority but you also need to teach them, for example, what cyberbulling is and how they can avoid doing that to others.
Positively reinforce the behavior you want – Kaye says two-year-olds are told “no” 422 times versus being told “yes” 32 times per day, according to research. Typical parent to child ratios are 12 negatives to 1 positive comment. Teachers are actually higher at 18 negatives to 1 positive. Make sure you are very clear about what your child does right – “be inclusive, not exclusive.”
Many times parents want to be friends with their kids and kids are simply “feeling their way through life,” says Kaye. If we are trying so hard to be friends and not allowing them to feel the consequences of their actions and decisions, we are not arming them for real life. Kaye says parents should remember your mantra: “My job is to be your parent.” Do remember, however, if your child feels threatened by opening up to you about their life, they will seek that elsewhere, maybe even online.
Be strategic and thoughful about difficult conversations – If you must have a serious conversation, Kay recommends thinking through these steps to make the conversation go smoother:
Lead by example –in your method of communications with your family. So, for example, if you absolutely must have your phone during dinner, make sure if your child is talking, especially if they are answering a question you asked, you must apologize profusely or decide if you can put your phone on mute. This sets a very appropriate example for your impressionable child. You would want them to do the same to you, right?
One final tip for all parents to give their kids – make it ok to make you the scapegoat. If your child is in a situation they are not comfortable, you should give them permission to say “my mom will kill me – I can’t do that.” Or “I have to get home right now to help my dad.”
Kaye even suggests giving a codeword that will not come up in normal conversation but it tells parents when your child needs to be “rescued” and you must say “come home now” or ask if they need a ride.
Very important – they must know that no matter what’s going on, you are going to help them even if you won’t like what you find. She says it is incredibly important for your child to understand they may still get grounded for getting drunk but they will never be in trouble for asking you for help.
About Jenn Kaye
Jenn Kaye is an internationally-recognized relationship and communications expert who helps people around the world have less drama and more fun in their relationships and their lives. Jenn is also an accomplished Speaker, Facilitator, Coach and Consultant. With over 20 years of experience as a communications strategist and relationship expert, she specializes in creating simple, easy to implement strategies for deeper connections, better communication and optimum quality of life. She also speaks 7 languages – talk about communicating! Learn more at www.lifeheadon.com.]]>