I was in the supermarket yesterday and I heard a very stressed mum exclaim to her young son: “I wish you would just do what I say!”
My heart went out to her. I’m a mum and even though my children are now adults, I clearly remember those moments when I felt overwhelmed. I loved my children deeply and wanted to be the best mother I could be...ah well, if only I knew then what I know now!
For many years, I coached my son’s hockey team every Saturday morning.
I thought he wanted me to coach the team.
He thought I wanted him to play hockey.
We both hated it. We were both miserable doing it. But we both put on a smile and acted like we were having fun, just to please each other.
We only realised how we both truly felt when we chatted about it years later, when he was 23 years old. It was bittersweet - a combination of relief that we were now being honest with each other and sadness that we had both been scoring own-goals all those years.
How to Communicate Openly With Our Children
We want our children to know that they can communicate with us, no matter what.
NO MATTER WHAT.
That means without fear of judgment, fear of disappointing us, or fear of losing our love and acceptance.
I believe it starts with creating the space for those conversations. With teenagers, it’s often best while you are doing something together - I don't know too many young adults who light up at the words “Let’s sit down together and have a chat!” Some good moments could be while you are driving in the car together, playing a sport, cooking a meal, or going for a walk.
Try to ask open-ended questions about their lives. Resist the temptation to bring in the Spanish inquisition - you are merely opening the door to find out what’s really going on in their heads.
Give them time to respond. Sometimes there might be silence or only a grunt! You have extended the invitation to connect. Their answer might come later, often at bedtime or even after a few days.
You love them, but don't try to fix the issue when they do share their thoughts. It took me a long time to learn this one! Rather than taking control and trying to solve the problem for them, ask questions like:
“How can I support you?”
“How can we work this out together?”
And then wait again. Stay open to their ideas and suggestions. Our children often have a way of looking at things in a way that we never would have thought of!
Finally, be kind to yourself. Become aware of your own feelings and needs by using our lists or The No-Fault Zone® Game. Just remember that you are the parent and your role is to support your child as they grow up, not the other way around!
Thank goodness we laugh about it now when we think of all those Saturday mornings my son and I could have spent doing something together we both actually enjoyed!
It can take time to find your way as a parent. I still feel like I’ve got so much more to learn. I try to remember that each conversation can be a new beginning and an opportunity to lay the foundation for more genuine and meaningful connection in the future.