In this world filled with disconnect, where are our kids supposed to learn how to talk about things?
I propose that moms and dads make it a point in their heads and in their hearts to take a few moments here and there to regularly have conversations with their kids, and NOT just when something’s wrong.
You may be uncomfortable with this at first, or maybe a bit confused as to why it’s important and how to proceed with it, as you may have never have had this behavior modeled for you when YOU were a child.
Chances are that not many of the adults in YOUR childhood, if any, made the deliberate decision to have regular conversations with you. So I’m going to show you how to do it very simply and effectively. But first–why it’s an important thing to do.
By the time we reach adulthood, many of our patterns of thought, emotion, and communication have already been set. I like to think of these patterns as ‘grooves’ in the brain (figuratively speaking).
In adulthood it is quite difficult to change these grooves appreciably from the patterns that created them in our childhood years.
So, for example, if, in your family of origin, it was not encouraged to share or to talk about emotions or thoughts, you will have grown up with a deep groove that makes you tend towards keeping these things to yourself. Maybe talking about situations in your life doesn’t even occur to you, or, if it does, you can easily be shut down or angered by shame or other kinds of discomfort or by any sort of gentle confrontation or challenge.
This personality trait would then ultimately influence who you choose to marry and how you raise your own kids. Perhaps you might subconsciously choose a spouse who cannot tolerate you talking about your emotions or moments when you are not ‘strong’, thus reinforcing your original family’s pattern.
The problem with this is that it cuts you off from connecting properly with yourself, your spouse, and your kids–but because that’s all you know, that’s what you will do and that’s what you will model for your kids.
Some side effects from all this disconnect can then be various acting out behaviors such as various addictions, escapism, mood swings, depression and anxiety, etc.
And so on.
Now let me share with you a very simple, very powerful technique you can use when you choose to deliberately spend a few minutes having a conversation with your child, thereby teaching them how to be emotionally intimate and connected with you.
It goes like this:
First of all, ASK QUESTIONS.
Here’s the immediately wonderful thing about this: YOU don’t have to know what to say or where to begin!
And make at least some of your questions open ended. By open ended I mean conversation starters/stimulators as opposed to conversation ‘enders’:
‘So, how’s it going?’
‘Tell me about your day today.’ (not technically a question, but an open-ended request nonetheless)
Maybe ask some follow up questions.
And by all means, validate the kid’s thoughts and emotions instead of immediately contradicting them or becoming defensive or challenging.
Just remember to save your comments for last, if you need them at all.
You can learn more about this technique–which I call LVAC, and which stands for Listen, Validate, Ask, Comment–in this post: https://drferraioli.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/an-lvac-primer/.
Good luck and Happy Conversations!
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First)
Cobwebs and Ugly Wallpaper