Can We Talk?
As my kids get older, this is a question that I don't mind saying "yes" to. I like to think that my husband and I have created a space that makes my children feel comfortable expressing what's going on in their busy minds.
Growing up, communication wasn't openly encouraged in my household. This was the case in many other African-American households as well. The cardinal rules were:
☞You didn't speak unless you were being spoken to
☞You didn't speak when adults were talking (in some cases, you weren't even allowed to be in the room)
☞You didn't question or dispute (basically argue) with what an adult was saying
This learned behavior made it really difficult for me to communicate in adulthood. I often became anxious when needing to have difficult conversations. I would use to count to 10 several times before saying what I needed to say because I wasn't sure how it would be received.
These days, I am more confident in communicating my feelings because at the end of the day, you have to teach people how to treat you. How you want to be treated differs from anyone else so it's up to you to make that known. I try to pass this lesson on to my children as well which involves some unlearned behavior on my part.
When this question was posed on Twitter a few months ago, it was easy for me to respond. Because of the cardinal rules of my childhood I pointed out earlier, it is important for me to break the cycle of the fear to communicate with my children. As it stands right now, I think I'm doing a pretty good job because they speak their mind with ease lol.
In order to continue to encourage communication and engagement, I practice the following techniques:
☞ Acknowledge their feelings
I try to put myself in my kids' shoes - after all, I was once their age. I also want them to know that their feelings are important. I can't tell another person how to feel because I'm not them. So even if I THINK their feelings are not appropriate, it is not my place to tell them that.
I ask questions to not only make sure I understand what is being communicated to me but also to validate my kids' feelings. Being able to ask questions about the scenario shows them that I have been listening and that I want to help in any way that I can.
☞Avoid interruptions and assumptions
Just because I was a kid doesn't mean that I am my kid. And just because I think I know my child, I don't have the right to assume I know what they are feeling. The only way to truly understand their point of view is to listen actively and completely - which is why no interruptions are key. My kids need to know that what they have to say is important to me.
At the end of the day, I want to raise children that don't need to heal in the same ways that I did. Hopefully, they won't have to heal at all because I am trying my best to unlearn traits that did not serve me. After all, they say learning starts at home...
Until next time,
M. T. 😘✌🏾