When I work with families in therapy one of the most common issues that comes up is kids feel that their parents don’t understand them. There is a disconnect between what parents perceive is the issue and what their child is experiencing. This also shows up as kids not communicating because they want to protect their parents. Even though they often don’t show it kids often worry about hurting their parents’ feelings, disappointing them, and/or burdening them. Here’s the tricky part though…parents aren’t mind-readers and so without a child sharing their experience it often leaves us guessing as to what our child is going through.
We talked a lot about communication the other night at my online workshop: How To Teach and Talk With Your Child About Race and Racism. We even went through an activity where we identified areas that parents felt they could use more support. Communication by far seemed to be an area that parents wanted to work on and for good reason. The key to connecting with your child is communication. To better understand how they are feeling we need them to be able to tell us.
We want our kids to be able to feel they can share whatever is on their mind with us. We want our kids to know that if they tell us something we will support them and guide them. We want to know when our kids are feeling sad, bad, hurt just as much as we love to know that they are happy and proud.
So the next question is how do we get communication flowing freely? A really important aspect of being able to have this type of communication is related to being able to talk about emotions. For young children, this looks like being able to identify emotions and as they get older it means creating space for them to be vulnerable and share their emotions while knowing that they will be heard, supported, and not judged. For parents raising kids in multiracial families, it’s really important that pay attention to blind spots that may come up that might make it difficult for us to relate or understand an emotion or experience that our child is having. By continually working on identifying our blind spots we are able to open up more space to hear what our children need and how they are feeling.
By building communication around emotions like a regular practice with your family you will instill the connection that you desire as a parent with your child. Communication is key to connection.
Here’s a short video that I made for the folks that attended my workshop with tips to improve communication: 2 Quick Tips To Improve Communication