I had a break in the action yesterday (kids with their dad for a few hours), so I was able to have a one-on-one lunch with my dad. We had a very open conversation about life. He did the usual parent thing, asking questions about my health, the health of my kids, what’s new with them, etc. I told him something that I know he wasn’t excited about – a direction in my life. But, he didn’t push too hard. He listened to my point and we moved on.
When I came home my daughter talked to me about how emotional it was to attend the visitation of a friends’ mother who had just died. She was open about her feelings and for a second, shed the teenage cloak to give me a big, tight hug. I could tell she was reminded of the significance of the parent/child relationship.
Both these events made me ask myself, “How can I keep an open, non judgmental relationship with my children so they feel comfortable talking to me about any questions, problems and joys they experience in life?”
I try (very much the operative word today) to be an approachable parent. I want to encourage my kids to feel safe and comfortable bringing up sensitive concerns – even those they know I may not approve of. And, in trying to do so, I follow a couple of basic tenants:
1. I try to have a non-judgmental outlook on life in general (even when I want to be judgmental!). Kids model the good and not-so-good in us. So, I try not to react externally or get upset about life or situations they might bring up. I try not to push my agenda too hard. So, for example, when they come home with a low grade or tough situation occurred at school, I avoid, “How could that possibly have happened?” And, instead say, “That must feel bad. Can we figure out what happened?”
2. I try to listen, listen and listen more. This means I really have to hear the feeling behind the words. I have to focus – not multi-task. In the car, it’s as simple as turning off the radio and opening my ears.
3. I try to remain calm in the face of things I don’t “approve” of. This one is actually the toughest one for me. I use a lot of deep breaths! It goes back to the judgmental streak I’m working on!
4. One thing I’m not as good at is using my humor. But, when I do, I see how much more open my kids are.
Thanks for lunch Dad and for being a good role model yesterday! I think I needed it for dealing with my kids and just life in general!
Have a safe day!