One mother shares her wisdom.
Communicating with our children is an ever-changing challenge that requires us as parents to be patient and creative. The reality is that sometimes it’s developmentally appropriate for your child to talk your ear off; other times, it is just as on target, developmentally, for your child to offer a one-word response (if you are lucky).
When they are babies, you are so eager for that first step and and first word. Then you spend the next few years, exhausted from chasing them around and answering “why” a hundred times a day, wishing — at least a little — that they’d sit back down and be quiet.
Then they start school and you enter the world of the one-word responses.
“How was school?” “OK.”
“What did you learn today?” “Nothin’.”
“Did you have fun at school today?” “Mmhmmm.”
Getting more sometimes takes an indirect approach, as this blog post suggested with 25 tips for asking “how was school” without asking.
When my daughter, who is now 23, was in elementary school, we often ended the day snuggled in her bed together, with her favorite CDs playing quietly in the background (the Wallflowers and the Hansons were high on the list back then).
Before our good night kisses, we’d play “High/Low,” sharing the high points and the low points of our days.
It gave us the opportunity to reflect on the good things that happened and to identify those things that concerned, disappointed, saddened or angered us. It gave me an opportunity to model for her gratitude and naming emotions. It gave her an opportunity to open up about subjects she might never have talked about if I’d asked her outright.
Later, during her teen-aged years, I struggled with trying to get her to answer her cell phone. I never quite got her to answer the phone all the time, but we did reach a compromise that met my needs for knowing she was alive and safe and met her needs for privacy and independence.
I called it the “Are You Dead?” text, and we sometimes still use it.
When I haven’t heard from her in a while, I text “Are you dead?” Sometimes it prompts a conversation, albeit in 120 characters or less. Other times the response is just ‘No, still alive.”
Sometimes it’s even less. Once, I posted on her Facebook timeline: “Just checking … are you still alive?” The response? She “liked” the post. I just laughed. It had to be enough.
What creative ways have you found to communicate with your kids, at all ages?
Cynthia Manley leads Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s social media team, is proud mom to Mary Jane, 23, and “cool aunt” to Kayla, 11, and Brooke, 12.