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!