It has been said by many people for many years that being a parent is the most difficult job a person could ever have. Although it is true in some respects, there are certainly areas of the parent-child relationship that can be eased through a common-sense approach to parenting. One of the most integral aspects of any relationship is communication. If a parent cannot engage their child in conversation or honestly discuss issues that arise, there is no foundation upon which a meaningful relationship can be built.
From the first day of a child’s life, it is important to include children in family discussions. Obviously, the conversations within which a child is involved should be age-appropriate and non-threatening. But, even at a young age, children can contribute to the decisions being made and the problems being solved within a home, thus sending the message that they are an instrumental part of the family system. As such, they are more likely to consult with the family before making major life decisions of their own. More importantly for their overall development, this early involvement provides them with a feeling of connectedness and makes a child more likely to consider the impact of their decisions on their family.
Also conducive to open family communication is creating opportunities for discussion on a regular basis. The oldest and most practical way of doing this is to have at least one meal as a family each day. Even the busiest of parents have to eat, so this can be fit into almost anyone’s schedule, whether the meal is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Another strategy is to schedule an entertainment night once a week for the family. From playing board games to watching a movie, conversation is naturally stimulated.
There seems to be a consensus that the teenager years are the most difficult times on the parent-child relationship. Admittedly, teenagers are sometimes unpredictable and it is often a problem for parents to decide how to relate to them. This is where a parent must transform their communication to fit the situation and the child. It is important to remember that a parent is always a parent, but that does not mean that a parent cannot take on a variety of roles in guiding a child. For example, when a teen has a problem and needs a sympathetic ear, the parent needs to be more of a friend. This requires the parent to stifle their desire to take on the child’s problem, but allow the child to solve the problem themselves with a little friendly advice. It is situations like these that, again, reinforce the value of talking to our children.