Ready to truly communicate and have meaningful conversations with your kids?
Most of us want meaningful conversations in our life. We strive for connection and value quality communication. We often get upset with ourselves, our kids and loved ones when we’re not communicating and creating the level of love, intimacy, and connection, meaningful conversations provide for us.
Have you ever craved a meaningful conversation with your kids and felt as if no matter what you did or said, they just weren’t interested in sharing themselves, their thoughts, or their lives with you? You might have told yourself, it’s their age, their gender, their personality, or a host of other excuses or reasons as to why your not having those deep conversations you crave. I’ve put together some tips to help create a foundation and platform for creating open and meaningful communication.
Let me give you a little backstory about me. I’m the mother of three wonderful men and an officially retired educator. I taught in both the public and private sector for 40 years. I taught adults, high school students, pre-k, elementary, and ultimately, fell in love with teaching middle schoolers and spent nearly 30 years of my teaching life in middle school. I taught Language Arts (once upon a time called English). I have a degree in Linguistics and love languages, especially etymology and communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
Nonverbal communication accounts for nearly most of our communication. This includes tonality and other voice elements. Did you know over 38% of our communication is through voice alone, and 55% through body structure? The majority of our communication is nonverbal. So knowing this may make no difference for you unless you pay attention to the nonverbal messages you are sending and receiving. Having some awareness of your own and your child’s body language while communicating is going to powerfully affect the quality and frequency of your conversations.
Those middle school kids taught me a lot about communicating and especially about listening and learning to read nonverbal cues. We know not all school systems are created equal. I taught for a NYC middle school for many years and In the late 80’s, while many suburban middle schools began teaching keyboarding, the middle school I taught at, offered limited if not zero computer access in 2008. In this school of nearly 2000 kids, conditions were sub par and I learned, for all of us to survive, we would need to learn to listen to what was verbally and bodily conveyed.
I listened to their complaints and soon discovered, behind each of their complaints was a request. I trained myself to hear their requests and I trained myself to listen for the “gold”. Listening is a skill and when you learn and master this skill, you’ll have amazing and deeper conversations, and connections with everyone, especially your children and partner. Reading nonverbal cues is a must and learning to interpret them correctly is vitally important.
Here are few tips I learned from working with hundreds of thousands of children:
Listen without interruption. Imagine putting duct tape over your mouth while you listen to your children struggle, take time, miss words, use an incorrect word, or improper grammar, to complete a sentence. No matter how much to wish to complete their sentences you demonstrate restraint. You learn to listen and model listening without interruption.
Listen without crossing your arms over your chest. If you think I’m joking on this one, check it out yourself. Crossing your arms over your chest conveys an unwillingness and lack of openness to hear what is being said. If you’re speaking to a child or young adult from this stance, you will close communication. Best to keep your arms to your side, or even behind you if possible. If you’re sitting, keep your hands in your lap.
Ask open ended questions: An open ended question is not answered with yes or no. When you ask open ended questions, and allow your child time for reflection and thought, you will have created the opportunity for a mindful conversation. An example of an open ended question: “ What was the highlight of your day?” or which ever words best work for your child’s cognitive abilities. For elementary children, you might ask, “What made you happy in school today?” Then listen. Remember to attune your body language and voice to receiving an honest response.
Avoid asking multiple choice questions: Leave multiple choice questions for those standardized tests we love to hate. Stop providing the answers your kids are supposed to select from. Usually, when we do that, we are totally off base. An example is, “ What did you have for school lunch? “Hamburger, Pizza, a Sandwich? “ What if your child had a salad? I’ve learned that children shut down when we ask lots of multiple choice questions. Conversations using multiple choice are limiting and tend to discourage further dialog. Seriously, if you already know or think you know the answer, why bother asking. It’s such a waste of energy.
Be Present: When you listen to your kids, or anyone for that matter, listen. That means you have eye contact and your body language signals you are listening. You’re not on your phone, ipad, laptop, or computer. You’re not multi tasking and distracted with other things or talking to other people simultaneously. Listening is an art and it’s a gift. Children know when they’re being listened to and they know when they’ve been heard and understood. Let your body language signal you are present, attentive, and a full participant in the conversation. Remember, you are modeling future behavior patterns.
Maintaining Eye Contact: There are a number of myths associated with looking your child in the eye during conversation. Eye contact, length,and directness, is culturally influenced. If you don’t know the cultural norms of when and how to use eye contact correctly, please research this. A child of hispanic background will not want to look a teacher or any other authority figure directly in the eye. This is a sign of disrespect. Reprimanding them for lack of it affects trust and rapport. When speaking with younger children, I recommend getting to their level physically. This removes intimidation and helps create connection. Refrain from crossing your arms over your chest and be willing to listen and hear.
Refrain from judging: Passing judgment, especially non verbally immediately shuts down all communication. You will become noise to your child. You may even become the adversary. If you find yourself showing signs of exasperation, rolling your eyeballs, long exhales, shaking your head no, you have already signaled your disapproval and there’s a strong likelihood the conversation will not amount to very much, other than your child feeling and sensing your disapproval.
If you implement a few of these points you’ll be on your way to deeper, more fruitful, and more meaningful communication and conversations with your child. You’ll establish rapport, and be a “Yes” for them to come to when they’re having problems or need advice. You’ll also be modeling future ways of being for them, which they will learn to incorporate in their conversations with others. This is the basis for a more mindful and meaningful way of being and happier, more fulfilling conversations between you and your child/ren.
For 40 years, pioneering teacher, intuitive advisor, psychic and author, Elly Molina has worked with children to develop their powerful intuitive abilities. She consistently integrates Mindfulness & Intuitive Heart exercises into her educational practice. A staunch advocate of everyone using intuitive and natural psychic capacities, Elly empowers children and adults wherever she can for example in workshops and classes, speaking engagements, and private consultations. Elly has appeared on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and The New York Times. Elly is the author of the illustrated children’s book, Annabelle and the Domino, as well as the forthcoming book, Yes, You Can Too. How to Develop You and Your Child’s Powerful Intuitive and Psychic Abilities, (Black Opal Books) Visit her website!
Annabelle and the Domino, a beautifully illustrated children’s book, inspires both young and old to explore the potential of their mind. Annabelle demonstrates what it takes to develop telekinetic abilities. Her commitment inspires us with possibility and we lean that so much is available when we put our heart and soul into something that truly matters to us. The story is inspired by the author’s experiences while teaching in the Pacific Northwest
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