Talk to your kids!
School is an important time during our kids’ lives. Being accepted or rejected by peers, positive and negative school atmospheres and the extent to which school and parents can encourage interest in the learning process have a big impact on their general life satisfaction levels.
Are kids satisfied with their lives?
This recent study revealed that while most teens are actually happy with their lives, there are a lot of stress factors that put that happiness at risk. These include things like bullying at school and stress from exams. Quite a few kids experience isolation and even humiliation at school. And a significant minority feel like outsiders or are physically assaulted. This would be damaging for anyone, but as participation and acceptance are especially important for kids as they develop, it holds even more significance.
Uncontrolled screen time (defined here as using the internet for more than six hours a day) is another factor highlighted as negatively impacting kids’ happiness and life satisfaction. We’ve discussed before how social media often brings more disappointment to our lives and what we can do about that.
A tool we all can use to make our kids happier
If we put too much focus on the role of school or on internet and social media use though, we might be forgetting the most important happiness factor. Ourselves! Parental participation in their child’s life is absolutely vital. In fact, the same study revealed that children with high levels of life satisfaction usually have parents who regularly spend time talking with them. The role of traditional family mealtimes or more modern practices like parent/child “dates” can give us the perfect opportunity to talk with our kids. We don’t have to have some special system or strategy though. The time-proven tool for improving our kids lives turns out to be one of the simplest and most natural at our disposal. Talking to them!
4 tips on how to talk to your kids
I can’t claim to be some sort of expert on parent/child communication. I’m learning as I go, the same as most parents. But I have noticed a few things which I think make our communication with our kids more effective and pleasant (both for them and us). If you’ve got some more tips or ideas of your own, do write them in the comments below.
- I try not to compare my child with other kids. Of course, it’s good to have some positive behaviour models, but comparing your kids with others during a conversation is simply not the best way of providing it.
- Sometimes it’s hard, but I try not to blame my kid when he messes up. He’s still growing and learning how to live – kids need some grace from us to do this.
- After discussing something important I let my son come to a conclusion and make a decision of his own. Of course, I can step in and correct or override his decision if it’s absolutely necessary. But this way he feels himself an equally important part of the conversation. He understands that I value his perspective.
- In my experience, hard conversations (e.g. about problems at school, or behavioural issues) are much more productively discussed when we frame the issue not in terms of the child themselves but rather in terms of their mood or the specific behaviours they’re exhibiting. Then instead of feeling attacked (“you’re a bad student / a naughty child”) they can understand that you still accept them and that you’re helping them to solve a problem (“It’s never ok to talk your teacher that way. Let’s make a plan for what you’ll do if she makes you feel this way again”).