How can parents help their kids feel comfortable talking to them?
- One of the greatest ways a can parent help their kid open up communication with them is through learning and nailing the art of validation. The dictionary defines validation as “the recognition or affirmation that a person, their feelings, or opinions are valid or worthwhile.” Validation kindly communicates that you want and are trying to “get” them or their perspective and that their thoughts and feelings are understandable. Reflecting back to your child in your own words a summary or a paraphrase of what they have communicated is a great way of demonstrating that you are listening. It is also an opportunity for the child or teen to clarify what they are saying. Validation is experienced through eye contact, empathy, attentiveness, and a genuine heart to understand rather than get a point across.
- Your child or teen has a deep and immeasurable need to be known in this way. Often times fear or need for control will hijack such conversations and a parent will feel pressure to use the moment to get information, solve a problem, or lecture to instill a lesson or character trait. To the Youth, this feels like a selfish exchange on part of the parent and in many ways it is. A lecture is actually meeting the parent’s need at that moment and not the child’s, even though this usually comes from a place of good intention. The more you practice validation, the more your sense of when your child needs validation more than anything else will become more apparent. Therapists are also happy and ready to help you learn this skill if you need some help!
How to be open with your parents.
Kids, if you would like to be more open with your parents and feel more heard on things that are super important to you or sensitive in nature, sometimes it is helpful to set up a conversation for success by choosing a good time as much as possible and stating your need. For example, “Dad, I want to talk to you about something important and I need you to please (listen well, not interrupt, sit and talk in my room for a bit, etc). This gives your parent a chance to give feedback about the timing and it alerts them about the importance of the conversation. Sometimes it is really helpful to be respectfully blunt in communication but do make sure to appreciate the difference between being direct about an emotional need vs being demanding.
Benefits of Clear Communication
Clear and direct speaking and listening can prevent an untold number of painful and unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings. Validation and directness in communication build mutual understanding, respect, trust, and ultimately deeper bonding and love between family members.
YCC’s Family Link Program
The Family Link program provides professional and compassionate short-term, outpatient counseling services to families with children ages 6-17 who are experiencing concerns that could disrupt the health and stability of the family. These services are available at no cost to residents of Baker, Clay, Duval, St. Johns, and Nassau counties through appointments at the child’s school or other community locations. Click to learn more about Family Link and the 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Family. All Family Link counseling sessions are confidential. To learn more about services, please call (904) 720-0007.