Getting your kids to open up is one of the main goals of parenting.
One of my main tasks as a mom has been to make sure I am creating a safe place for my children’s hearts. I don’t ever want them to question if they can come to me with the really hard stuff. (And it seems to be working!! My preteen shares some pretty intense things.)
Hiding things will always create a playground in our hearts for shame. Will they tell me everything? No. But I want them to know that when they do share, I am a safe place for them to fall apart. They don’t have to fear shame from me.
What’s the best way to build trust that leads to open communication and heart connection with our child? Manage ourselves well in conversations with them.
A simple way to begin creating a safe place for our children is to begin building trust. If they are used to us screaming at them or using our words to tear them down, they will not trust us enough to share their hearts. As we manage ourselves better, their walls will begin to come down.
Rehearse phrases over and over so when tension arises you will be well prepared to respond well. Phrases such as, “I understand. Can you tell me more about that? How did you feel when…happened? When you are ready to talk, I am ready to listen.” Even the infamous “probably so” is a great way to communicate to an angry child that you will not be controlled with angry words or tantrums.
As my kids get older, situations get more complicated. Since life has changed pace, I’ve created an, “I’ll be there for you” card. It goes on our fridge. If they are dealing with anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, they can pick up that card and bring it to their dad or I.
It’s a promise to them that we will listen and remain calm no matter what they unload on us. It’s a promise to them that they always have a safe place to turn to. No matter what life throws at them, no matter what mistakes they make, I always want them to know, they can run home.
You must stick to your promise to be calm no matter what they say! If you break that even once, they will have a hard time trusting enough to try again.
No one will do this parenting thing perfectly. Don’t hesitate to ask for forgiveness from your children if you need it. Not only does it help keep them free of resentment towards you, but it’s a lovely precedent to set for them in future relationships.