We are raising two daughters. Today, one is 9 and the other 12. Everything is so big in their little worlds. We struggled to know when the “right” time to give our oldest daughter a phone and when to allow her to learn how to use social media and when and who she can text. First and foremost, I do believe there is really no “right” answer here, I believe it’s your child and you teach them as you see fit. But what we (my husband and I) have learned over the past 6 months is that it’s less about the timeline and more about the space for conversation.
Give them some space
I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m about to say back off and let them grow and learn. Sure, we do have to clip certain apron strings, if you will, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What we’ve learned is that when we clear our “busy schedules” and allow our girls to talk, they will tell us so much more. I made the mistake several months ago of saying to a melt down my tween was having, that it wasn’t “that big of a deal”. WRONG! It’s huge in her world. It’s a great big deal and it feels really, really big to her. I noticed she shut down and didn’t want to share with me. I noticed her spirit was crushed. I noticed that the motivation of my response was selfish. I’ve learned from that mistake. Now, when my girls start to talk….nothing is more important in that moment than listening. If we listen when they are young, they’ll talk to us as they grow older. Mom, Dad, it’s our job to open up the lines of communication. Whether they are an introvert or an extrovert, they have a need to talk about what’s going in their lives. We want it to be us that ours are talking to.
Ideas to get the Conversation flowing
- Sometimes our struggle is just knowing how to talk to our kids. One way we start up the conversation is to ask questions that are open ended and not just Yes and No answers. Here are some good questions to ask about their days at school.
- Slowing down the schedule and sitting together for a meal. This creates a natural space for conversation! BIG RULE HERE…no cell phones allowed!!
- Plan outings where it’s just your family involved. Take turns letting each family member pick the activity. These don’t have to cost you a dime. Just the time spent together helps to build a trust that then creates a space for words to be spoken.
- Pick a chore from time to time that you do with them. Though I’m certain they hate the chore, the help from you will put their guard down and allow you to start some conversations.
- Playing games together, working a puzzle or doing a craft or art gives you something to focus on together and also creates a great space for words.
- When possible, set up date night with each child individually. Let them pick the activity for the night. It’s nice to have a night that’s all about them!
- If you have an older child with a cell phone, send encouraging texts from time to time just letting them know that you love them and that you are so glad you get to be their parent. Even sending funny memes or videos or other “trendy” media that helps break down walls and gives them a good laugh. (Major cool points earned here!)
Some of these above suggestions may seem trivial, but what I’m learning (quickly learning) is that I have a huge desire for my girls to talk to us and confide in us in the celebrations and in the struggles, no matter how big or how small. But what I know to be true, is that we, as their parents, have to put in the work to create a space that they feel safe and confident and heard and accepted.
We would LOVE to hear ways that you create space for your children. Tell us some of those in the comments!