Parents don’t pay attention when their children talk, according to
"We don’t listen enough," says counseling psychologist Anne Marshall, director
of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Youth and Society. "We talk to
children more than talk with them."
Parent-and-child conversations are important, she says. "That’s how you
establish the relationship, maintain the relationship, and build trust and
communication, so when things are tough, you’re still talking."
"They find it hard to relate with a child’s world," she adds.
A direct question about what the child did at school might prompt the child to
excitedly talk about winning a game. Instead the parent wants to hear about the
child excelling in class, parental educator Allison Rees says.
The child could, for example, be having trouble with a teacher. Instead of
encouraging the child to talk about the problem, a parent usually demands to
know what the child did to upset the teacher.
"It shuts the kid down," Rees says.
All this weakens the connection or attachment with the parent essential to the
"You might be the only person on the planet who can actually communicate with
the child in a deep and meaningful way," she says.
A good way to start conversation with a child is to simply be available.
"You’re there, you’re interested, but the trick is not to dominate the
conversation," Ball says. "Back off and let the child led the conversation."
The child is less likely to talk if parents react with advice or preaching.
As a parent of now-university-age children, Rees says when they were younger;
she had to bite her tongue at times when they opened up to her. The temptation
to moralize or admonish must be quashed.
Furthermore, a parent should not minimize or dismiss a child’s feelings, she
says. Remember they are legitimate to the child.
By becoming attuned to the child’s body language and emotions, parents will know
when the child has something he needs to say, according to Rees.
This might happen at the dinner table. Rees is a fan of the old-style Sunday
dinner where everyone sits down together. Children respond well to its structure
Ultimately, parents have to recognize that children will choose to talk on their
own timetables. This may well be at bedtime when children are more relaxed.
"The mistake parents make is thinking children can talk on demand," Rees says.
---- Talking tips for parents
- Be available to your child.
- Recognize body language and emotions indicating your child want to talk.
- Don’t expect your child to talk on demand.
- Avoid direct questions which put a child on the defensive.
- Don’t dominate the conversation.
- Be patient. Let the child tell it his way.
- Be interested in what the child says.
- Avoid preaching or moralizing.
- Good questions help child foresee outcomes