We talk to our children on a daily basis. But communication is much more than conversations about schedules, if the chores are done, and sibling conflict. Successful communication involves honesty, feelings and understanding. It means we are having a series of talks. It means that we are starting conversations that continue over weeks, months, even years, to help our children prepare for what they might face, and what life has in store.
Although there are different styles of communication, and each of our children are different, one approach which is universally successful, is communicating by sharing stories about ourselves. By sharing positive stories that help teach our children and help them relate to us.
When our daughter was 4, she asked me for the first of many stories. After a confusing play date with a friend she came home with lots of questions. As I was trying to help, she stopped and asked, “Mom, did you ever feel like this when you were my age”? I knew at that moment that she needed a story. A situation she could relate to. She needed to know that I understood because I had been there and experienced the same things. I shared with her a time when I had faced the same situation. It provided the understanding she needed.
Growing up, my dad always told us stories about when he was growing up. He used stories to relate to us, teach us, and inspire us. I LOVED it. I think about his stories often and appreciate that he tells them to our children. They are being passed down through the generations and continue to bond us together through the ages, while teaching and solving problems at the same time. It seems that most, if not all the lessons and principles I was taught as a child, were taught through personal stories.
Now, my husband and I do the same with our children. Our children want to know about us. They want to hear our stories. They find strength in being able to relate to us and find similarities. It is comforting when they can realize that we were kids once too!
We have seen our family relationship strengthen as we have worked harder to weave stories into our conversations and communication. It is a good challenge for all of us.
It is easy as parents, to get preachy when we communicate. To get caught up in telling instead of listening. To try to make our “point” because there is so much more that needs to be done in our day. And to forget that these experiences are new to our children and they need us to be compassionate.
Tips to having your own “conversations”.
- Start early. Open the lines of communication when they are very young so they always know you can talk together about everything. Children will be prepared when situations arise and we won’t feel like we are always playing “catch up” with our conversations.
- Remember, communication is more than just one talk. It is a series of dialogues, an ongoing conversation.
- Share stories with your family. Focus on sharing positive experiences.
- Sharing stories about challenges are also great, just be sure you focus on how you overcame the challenge.
- There is room to talk about mistakes also. Focus on how you fixed the mistake, learned from it, and righted the wrong, more that the actual thing you did wrong.
- There are some things we don’t need to tell our children. Think twice.
Research suggests that the more children know about their parents and grandparents, especially their successes and failures, the more they are able to overcome setbacks. Start communicating through stories in your home today.
Do you use stories to communicate with your children?