This is a great time to look for opportunities to have a conversation or two with your kids as they go back to school and especially if they are heading off to grade school, high school or college for the first time. Here are some ideas that will make this conversation more comfortable and more enjoyable.
The first is - Have something in mind that you want to say to your child. All of us parents either think:
Our children don’t want to listen or talk to us, or
We believe we have to give them all the advice right now that we should have given them over the last ten years.
Wrong both times!
Believe it, or not our children want to connect with us, and
Forget about all the advice-giving stuff, when they want or need your advice they will seek you out; that is if you did the first thing which is to establish a great connection with them.
The second is - Think about where and when you’d like to talk to them.
Let’s talk about what to say first. Here are a few phrases that are sure winners in the kid connection area:
I love you – that’s usually enough.
I am proud of you – You need to be specific. No generalizations like “Good Job.” Or “You are a great kid.” Meaningless! Look for something specific you can appreciate.
This one is always a winner - Tell a story about your own experience with high school, college, or going away from home – maybe how scared, excited, lost, curious you felt.
Let them know this – “You can talk to me about anything.” But you have to mean this when they come to you with feelings of depression, worry, or maybe they’ve gotten into a substance. You want them to be with you so that you can help them navigate to the help they need.
If it gets overwhelming, I will help you.
It’s OK if you don’t love school. We will get through this together.
Now let’s talk about the where. You might have to plan this a bit. Believe me, if you are ready to talk and have something you want to share an opportunity will present itself. Here are a few winners:
Take a drive
Get something to eat – not a buffet
Walk the dog
Make something together – dinner, cake, barbecue
Play a game
Pay attention – DO NOT SIT ACROSS THE TABLE STARING INTO THEIR EYES SAYING, “Look at me!” The thought of that even freaks me out.
Remember! – THIS IS NOT A LECTURE! The whole conversation may only take a few minutes because it is a moment to connect.
Let’s hit this point that derails most parents from even trying: My kids will never listen to me!
It is always easier when you’ve practiced this conversation starting when the kids were toddlers. But it is NEVER too late to talk no matter what has happened.
What you are saying is not for their ears or their head it is for their heart, and their heart is always listening even if it doesn't look like it. Your job is to say the words and mean them from your heart – it is a heart to heart connection you are making. And this will be a moment they will never forget. Believe me!
There’s a pretty good chance they won’t swoon at your words. But these words are important ones that none of us ever tires of hearing over and over again:
I love you!
I am proud of you!
I am here for you!
You can talk to me about anything.
If you are just desperate to give advice, then try this - tell them a story about yourself. We all love to hear stories and especially a story where we messed up and learned a valuable lesson. Then leave it at that.
Here's a piece of great advice I got from Allen County Commissioner, Cory Noonan. He told me that when he takes his kids to play a sport, he says to them, "I love to watch you play." In other words, “No pressure. I am here for you.” I love that.
And if you have to bribe them with a hamburger or an ice cream cone, it is well worth the money! You'll never miss it.