By Jennifer Butler
It seems that communicating with our children can trigger a great deal of anxiety for parents. Whether it is a serious topic, or even a light one, we have trouble knowing what to say to our kids and how to say it. As their parents, it is our job to love them, keep them safe, and to give them guidance, though as simple as this may sound, the task is definitely not an easy one. Parenting has the tendency to trigger our own internal wounds and issues and when we aren’t conscious of it, we can lose sight of the child in front of us by instead attempting to ease the pain of the child within us.
Throughout my days I am in the presence of many parents and children, and I can’t help but watch them interact. What I notice the most is how much struggle there is for parents to relate to their children in a conscious and present way, showing respect for their little beings and honoring their separateness. I hear parents yelling, using condescending tones that border on bullying, and talking AT their kids instead of TO them. I watch as these interactions chip away at the deep and beautiful parent-child connections. I look around knowing that parents love their children so much, and just seem unsure of how to transmit that love in an effective way.
Our kids absolutely thrive when those around them are willing to relate to them in a conscious and present way. There is no greater feeling for a child than to live in a home where they feel a sense of belonging and being accepted and loved for exactly who they are. One of the most effective ways to create a conscious connection with our children is through our communication style. Many of us have not learned effective communication skills in our own lives and therefore feel even less adept as communicating with our kids. Here’s the thing though, taking the time to develop these skills can have a dramatic effect on our connection with our children, as well as the other relationships in our lives.
Tools for conscious and present communication with our kids:
1. Be willing to see beneath the surface
As a mom, I can tell you that I am the queen of multi-tasking. It can be very easy to have conversations with my son while I am cooking dinner, doing laundry, and working. While this is necessary at times, it is not the best way to communicate, so it is essential to have single focused conversations throughout the day as well.
Single focused conversations involve making eye contact. Making eye contact is about more than just letting the person know you are focused on them. It is about seeing beneath the surface of your child and being willing to acknowledge their unique being. They say that when you look deeply into a person’s eyes, it is like a window into their soul. It is during these conversations that we will learn to feel our children’s presence at a deeper level and find depths of love within our hearts rise to the surface. It is during these conversations that our children will feel deeply seen, heard, and loved. There is nothing like knowing you matter and that your thoughts and feelings are important to those you love.
2. Learn what it means to hold space
As parents, we can easily fall into the trap of feeling like we always have to have the answers and know what to do. Our kids will come to us with a problem, a heartbreak, or even a simple story and then without even realizing it, we are offering opinions, advice, and condolences. Our intention is likely to help them to solve things and/or to feel better, but often times this will cause our children to feel guarded. Over time, they become less likely to share.
Think about how good it feels when you confide in someone and they simply allow you to have your experience, without any opinions or judgements being offered. When someone is willing to sit there with you, in the discomfort of the moment, letting you know that it is okay for you to have whatever experience you are having. When we do this for our kids, we are basically letting them know that we’ve got them, we are willing to be in it with them, and that we trust in them to find their way through. We are honoring them with our presence while simultaneously respecting them with space.
It is a gift for children to be able to stand witness to parents who are committed to self-improvement and open to growth and learning.
3. Have the courage to do your own work
Let’s face it, none of us is perfect and we all struggle at some point in our lives. Yet, we seem to still attempt to hold it all together and act like we have it all under control. We keep going along, day after day, doing things the way we have always done them even though they don’t seem to be working. I believe this is the definition of crazy, and we are all guilty of it.
When we are willing to work on our own stuff and learn better ways of being effective in the world, we are able to not only communicate better with our kids, but also to connect on a deeper level. It is a gift for children to be able to stand witness to parents who are committed to self-improvement and open to growth and learning. Not only do we then pave the way for our children to do the same in their lives, but we also spare them from having to be on the receiving end of our own unexplored issues. Our imperfections become part of a dance as opposed to obstacles that stand in the way.
4. Share who you are as a human being
When my father passed away, people kept approaching me with these amazing stories about my dad and the wonderful things he had done for hundreds of people around him. I heard accounts of a man who was open-hearted, charitable with his time, and giving of his presence. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and I also felt tremendous sadness. See, I wish I had known this side of my father while he was here on earth. I wish I could have celebrated who he was as a human being, separate from and in addition to the amazing father he was to me.
When we are willing to share the vulnerable and personal sides of ourselves with our kids, we open up the opportunity for a deeper and more present connection. Instead of us simply being “parents,” we become actual people who exist in the world in a larger way. Not only does this help our children relate to us, but it also lets them know that we love and trust them enough to let them see who we truly are. Sharing your being-ness with another human is a sacred gift, one that is felt on a soul level between all parties. It is quite possibly the most beautiful experience a family can offer one another.
The funny thing is, when our children are born, this stuff comes naturally to them. They are these open-hearted little beings that thrive on connection and absorb the love around them. Some of us may need to learn or re-learn these skills, but it is absolutely worth the relationship with our children and the lasting effect of love and belonging they get to carry throughout their lives.
About the Author
Jennifer Butler is an MSW, certified love and relationship coach, and writer who is dedicated to helping people awaken their own internal power to create the love and freedom they desire in their lives. Beyond an extensive education, Jennifer has also gone through a powerful life transformation after overcoming obstacles and challenges in her own life. If you are ready to expand your own capacity to love and be loved, you can connect with Jennifer at JennJoyCoaching and on Instagram.