Some people are natural talkers and others take a bit more time to express what is inside of them. We have three children – all very different. And in today’s heavy technology world, we find we have to put a premium on talking to each other, face to face.
We discuss this topic regularly. Why? Because most of the time, lack of communication – talking – is the key problem families and marriages face.
“You have my full attention.”
Don’t try to multi-task while you’re talking. Be engaged with the other person. Look at them. There is so much to learn from body language and facial expressions and you miss out on those things if you’re staring at your phone half-listening. You also communicate to the other person that they are not more important than whatever you’re looking at.
Not everything goes our way. Discussing disappointments and failures – rather than ignoring them – can be healthy. Especially when we couch it in terms of figuring out what we learned from it. This is important to model because it encourages healthy communication about things that may be hard to talk about. Our daughter had a rough sports season with an unkind coach. It would be easy to say, “Phew! Glad that’s over, let’s forget about it.” But even if it would be easier to just try and forget, those things stick with us. So it’s important to talk, to learn, to grow and forgive. To be healed, rather than just to survive. That’s what God intends for us.
God often has a very different plan than we do. As followers of Christ, there are constant readjustments so that our hearts can be aligned with His. As parents, it’s important to not simply do this privately. Not everything is meant to be shared, but what is a learning experience for you can often be a valuable lesson for your kids as well. So find ways to open up and share.
Be honest about what’s going on inside of you. If you constantly answer “Fine” when you are clearly not fine, you’re teaching your children to do the same thing. It’s fine to say, “I’ve got a lot on my mind.” or “Not feeling well today.” without giving long explanations. But “fine” is not appropriate when everyone around you can clearly see you’re not fine. We have to constantly model honesty. How much you share isn’t the key – it’s admitting that yes, something is wrong.
It’s a great time to encourage your kids to pray for you. In doing so, they not only feel valued (My prayers are important!) but they have a place to focus their worries.
If you want your kids to be real with you, then you have to lead the way.
If your family isn’t communicating with each other very much, then find ways to start touching base with every member, every day. It always takes less time than you think it will. Find out what your kids are concerned about and pray with them in the mornings. Find out how their day went and pray with them in the evenings. Often as kids get older, the nightly bedtime routines get lost. Re-establish those evening moments.
“It’s not too late.”
If you look around your family and see a lot of isolation, don’t despair. It’s never too late to get started. It might take more effort and patience on your part, but if you keep pursuing, you will break down those walls. Especially if you can listen and respond without going into lecture-mode.
Communication is something that always takes focus, but is always worth it. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to turn on the television and escape reality for a little while. But communicating with one another gives us a chance to get perspective on our own thoughts as well as contribute perspective to another. We were designed by God to be in relationship with one another – especially in our families.
So this week, take a look at your family and try to find time to talk with one another.
By: Jeff and Sarah Sumpolec have been married for 19 years and Jeff has been a therapist in private practice for more than 10 years. They have three daughters together and Sarah writes for and speaks to teens. Find them at: http://becomingministries.org/.
Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.