Taking time to talk, listen to your child will last a lifetime

It is important to invest ample time when communicating with your children.

It is important to invest ample time when communicating with your children.

Studies have shown that taking the time to talk - and listen - to your children just 15 minutes every day can open the lines of communication that will last a lifetime. And that could be a life saver during those angst-ridden teen years.

Developing good communication with your children is not difficult, but it does take some time, patience, understanding and practice. Depending on your child's age, they may be more willing to share details about their lives and friends. Pre-schoolers and early elementary pupils love to give parents a second-by-second report about what happened at school.

As children grow into the later elementary, pre-teen and finally the teenage years, their eagerness to "share" their thoughts and feelings begins to dwindle.

For some parents, getting basic information about "what happened at school today" results in a series of grunts and shoulder shrugs, coupled with an occasional "nothing," thrown in. This might be a normal part of their development, but that does not mean that you as a parent should give up trying.

They need a connection with you - especially at this age - even though their quest for autonomy is battling with their need to build a stronger bond with you as a parent and friend.

Building better communication with your older child often requires learning to listen so that your child feels comfortable talking. How? Many experts offer these important parent-child communication tips:

l Stay Informed About School - Know what is going on in school. Go to parent-teacher meetings; read the school newsletter; stay in touch with other parents.

It will show your child that you care about the place where they spend most of their time, and keep you up to date on changes and issues both with your child and with the school.

l Give Your Kid Some Space - You like a little downtime after work, right? So do your kids. Do not bombard them with questions about their day the minute they walk in the door from school. Take some time in the car later, or while you are fixing dinner or setting the table to chat about their day.

l Share Your Day With Your Kids - If you are always the one asking questions, your kids might start to feel as if they're being interrogated. Instead, share funny stories or frustrations about your day, such as the people at work; a difficult assignment at work; etc. Then ask them if they have had a similar experience lately.

l Ask Open-ended Questions - If you ask a yes-or-no question about your child's day, friends, or even their upcoming concert, chances are you will get little more than a yes-or-no answer.

Instead, opt for an open-ended question that will show your child that you really are interested in hearing about their lives.

l Give Your Child Your Full Attention - When you sit down to talk, really listen. Take the time to read between the lines, observe body language and make it a point to take an interest in what your child is talking about - even if you don't agree or they're talking about something you have little personal interest in.

l Be Encouraging - Lean forward, make eye contact, show support both verbally and non-verbally. Encourage your child to share their dreams, their interests and their struggles with you. Following these simple steps will also go a long way to building your child's self-esteem. - from Parenting, on www.parenting-info.co.za.