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Speak to your children, but listen to them

Modern day parenthood could be more perplexing and refreshingly daunting than the days of old. Neighbours, relations and the entire community in actual fact could be relied on by parents to counsel their children and rebuke them where necessary.

In a present day society however, young people get more information from the internet, radio, television, newspapers etc, regardless of how misleading all these information could be. Good communication is an important parenting skill. Good communication is the key to building self-esteem as well as mutual respect. The importance of a parent’s open and effective communication with their children cannot be overemphasized. Children begin to formulate ideas, beliefs and their personality based on how their parents communicate with them.

When parents communicate effectively with their children, they are showing them respect!
A child’s self-esteem is boosted and his self-confidence built when parents communicate with them effectively. Such children are more likely to do what they are told, and they know what to expect from their parents. As long as a child knows what is expected of him, he is more likely to live up to those expectations. On the other hand, ineffective or negative communication can lead children to believe that they are unimportant, unheard, or misunderstood. Such children may also come to see their parents as unhelpful and untrustworthy.

A parent’s knowledge of a subject matter, their beliefs and how comfortably they could facilitate conversation with their children are undeniable factors that sustain Qualitative communication with children, in a timely affable fashion. The extent and manner in which parents relate and communicate with their children are critical factors in the prevention of social vices such as crime and sex related activities. Children whose parents provide sexuality education and information on contraceptives are arguably more likely to postpone sexual activity. Even at a stage when they become sexually active, they tend to have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to use contraceptives than young people who did not have sexuality education. Consequently thereby reducing the risk for pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Parents must as a matter of urgency teach children why values such as honesty, self-respect, and responsibility are important. Along with the information, parents must help their children develop good decision making skills so that they can act on their own. Teaching your children how to analyse situation, identify various options, weighing the consequences of each option and making good decisions is very critical in the life a child.

Communication Tips for Parents
Knowing when, how and what to talk to your child makes a world of difference in getting them to open up. Before parents and their children can communicate effectively, both must feel comfortable enough to do so. While their children are very young, parents should begin setting the stage for open and effective communication. Parents can do this by making themselves available to their children when they have questions or just want to talk. Furthermore, parents who provide their children with plenty of love, understanding and acceptance are helping create a climate for open communication. Children who feel loved and accepted by their parents are more likely to open up and share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with their parents.

Be available for your children: Parents are supposed to provide children with all kinds of needed guidance. A parent must notice the times when their children are most likely to talk, for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car etc, and PARENTS must simply be AVAILABLE! A parent must initiate the conversation; this shows your kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives. Find time each week for a ‘one-on-one’ activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time. As a parent, you must learn about your children’s interests as well. Know things such as their favorite music, movies, hobbies etc and show interest in them. Beyond the attendance of a child’s PTA meetings, a parent must follow-up a child’s academic performance as well. Always try to answer their questions. If you do not have an answer, find out and get back to them. Take note of how you communicate with your children by watching your tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and silence (nonverbal communication).

Listen to your children: When your children are sharing their concerns, learn to listen, express interest in what they are saying without interrupting, let them complete their point before you respond, repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly. Not only must parents be available and listen to their children for effective communication to take place; they must also be willing to share their own thoughts and feelings with their children. Parents can teach their children many things, for example, morals and values, by expressing their thoughts and feelings (this can be done by involving the children in taking decisions that affect the family. For instance helping them set up their goals for the month or year, this would help you as a parent know how your children are thinking and help you know how to support them better). A parent must consciously avoid being prejudicial and judgmental in expressing their ideas and feelings. Logically, the more you open up to their children as a parent, the more your children will open up to you. Focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own when having a conversation with your child. Express your opinion without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it’s okay to disagree. Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say, “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”

Stay informed: Parents must be well informed especially in the broader areas that are of interest to their children, sexual development, health, and current affairs so as to be more resourceful to children and give appropriate response in conversation. There may be a big difference between the questions your teenager asks and the questions you hear from a younger child. Your response will have to depend on the stage of the child.
Considering the fact that all families have conflicts at one time or another, communication flow must be kept open even during family crisis. In order to resolve these conflicts while keeping the lines of communication opened, the particular problem at that time must be addressed whereas children must also be taught to be learn forgiveness.

Kids learn by imitating, most often, a child will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, problems resolution and working through difficult feelings. Talk to your children — don’t lecture them, don’t criticize them, do not threaten or say hurtful things to them. Realize your children may test you by telling you a small part of what is bothering them. Listen carefully to what they say, encourage them to talk and they may share the rest of the story. Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your children. Parenting is hard work and maintaining a good communication with children can be challenging, especially dealing with many other pressures of life. If you are having problems over an extended period of time, you might want to consider consulting with a counsellor. Effective, open communication takes a lot of hard work and practice. Parents should remember that they will not be perfect. Parents make mistakes. What is important is that, parents make the effort to effectively communicate with their children starting when these children are very young.

With the advent of technology and sophisticated nature of the items children of this century are exposed to, the detachment of children from their parents is getting more endemic. It has always been known that not all parents have effective relationship and communication time with their children and this gets worse with technology. Children need parents as *friends* and as a matter of fact, *best friends*. How can a parent build up the friendship in their children? Basically parents must be less judgemental, always try to remember yourself as a child and avoid repeating same mistakes your parents did in putting a strain on your relationship with them as a child. Parents do not need to just verbally express friendships, but physical attributions matter a lot and when a child gets that from his parents, he becomes content and would not yearn for it elsewhere making him less vulnerable. Parents need to ask themselves, how often they hug their children, how often they tell their children, that they missed them, or they loved them. How many parents actually tell their children that they are special, they are so handsome/beautiful etc*. Children need to hear these things from their parents. These things capably imbues self-belief and self-worth in children and they appreciated right from childhood. They will not need those soothing words from others that will prompt early sexual lifestyles.

The other part is, how much do parents know the friends of their children and how often do they engage in communication with them. If your child or children have friends, it is beautiful to invite the child’s friends home for play date, once in a couple of weeks and if possible let these kids spend a night with your child in your home. Adults as well get to know a lot about their children by how their children communicate with other children. Parents can play games with all these children and let the children see them as a trustee individual.

One key ingredient missing in the art of communication between children and parents in the African community is the issue of TRUST. Let your children know you trust them and they are first hand trusted persons. Children have sharp instincts and they can tell on the looks and reactions of their parents if they are not trusted. When you treat what your child says as more authentic than what anyone else said, it boosts the confidence of that child and he is likely to say less lies to you.

As much as possible, parents can seek information on sexual related topics from the appropriate centres or well certified websites with trusted information. Parents should easily practice the habit of discussing relationship as a normal thing with their children, making them understand, it is normal to have a girl or boy as a friend but there need to be a dalliance of sexual interaction. Children also deserve to know from their parents about the usage of contraceptives and the risks involved. Children are curious and adults need to realise they have been in that phase before so they really need to sit up and reflect and help make the lives of children easy as well as theirs.

A Primary School teacher asked her pupils to write an essay on ”A wish you want from God?” At the end of the day, the teacher collected all the essays given by her pupils. She took them to her house, sat down and started marking. Whilst marking the essays, she sees a strange essay written by one of her pupils. That essay made her very emotional. Her husband came and sat beside her and saw her crying. The husband asked her, “What happened?” “What’s making you cry” She answered “Read this. It is one of my pupil’s essay.” “Oh God, Make me a Television. I want to live like the TV in my house.

In my house, the TV is very valuable. All of my family members sit around it. They are very interested in it. When the TV is talking, my parents listen to it very happily. They don’t shout at the TV. They don’t quarrel with the TV. They don’t slap the TV. So I want to become a TV. The TV is the centre of attraction in my house. I want to receive the same special care that the TV receives from my parents. Even when it is not working, the TV has a lot of value. When my dad and mom come home, they immediately sit in front of the TV, switch it on and spend hours watching it. The TV is stealing the time of my dad and my mom. If I become a TV, then they will spend their time with me. While watching the TV, my parents laugh a lot and they smile many times. But I want my parents to laugh and smile with me also. So please God make me a TV. And last but not the least, if I become a TV, surely I can make my parents happy and entertain them.

Lord I won’t ask you for anything more. I just want to live like a TV. Please turn me into a TV. The husband completed reading the essay. He said “My God, poor kid. He feels lonely. He did not receive enough love and care from his parents. His parents are horrible.” The eyes of the primary School teacher filled with tears. She looked at her husband and said, “Our son wrote this essay.

“May our children never desire to be WhatsApp, Phones or TV”

By: Charles Kafui Agblanya,

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