Parents are the most important part of a child’s life and they become the first form of social interaction they have. In the recent years, children have more access to the outside world than they did before which thereby impacts the relationship they build with their parents. This makes it very important that we build a friendship with our children. It is also important to encourage the child to give others the space to talk and affirm them when they too are more empathetic towards others. This blog takes into account the importance and ways of being a friend first with your children.
This is a special situation in which we are living currently, with the major chunk of schooling happening online, hardly any child is able to form a relationship with their peers and find a necessary peer group. This has taken a huge toll on their communication skills. They are also not able to form meaningful interpersonal relationships with their peers and hence, may feel very lonely and hence, may also not be able to develop one out of the 5 C’s, i.e. communication. What then can we as parents in the 21st century do to ensure that our children are still able to work on their communication and collaboration skills even in these unpredictable times?
It is important that we first act as a friend to our children, and not in the way where we support everything they do, instead, lend them a helping hand and a listening ear, as the most important thing that are children need in their growing years is that their parents are able to provide them a comfortable and open space to talk about anything without having the fear of being reprimanded by them. There will always be things which we may not agree with and that is something that cannot be denied, however, that is something we can communicate with them openly about and encourage them as well to talk about it openly with us, thereby facilitating communication and encouraging critical thinking as we may ask them questions for which they may not have tried to look for solutions.
Take the example of talking about the future with your adolescent, especially in the Indian context, where competition is endless, and opportunities are limited. What path do we take in explaining to our children that they must start thinking about their future? Do we take the route of telling them that they must do this if they want a better future and that there are a lot of familial expectations from them and that they need to think about this soon or the decision will be made for them? Or will we take the route of asking them what they want to do and how they want to go through with this goal and how can we as parents be of help to them in this decision?
How can we as parents encourage our children to open up to us by being their friends? The strategies are rather easy, but they have one requirement- We must maintain a demeanour where the child does not know that there is something we do not agree with, because if they read it in our expressions or our voice, then we cannot get them to communicate and open up. Here are some strategies we can use:
As parents we of course want to know what is going on with our child and if they are settling in okay, even in an online setup. The important point in all of this is that we keep in mind to ask the child questions with concern and with a feeling of wanting to know what the child is going through rather than asking them with an interrogative tone which may make them feel unheard and uncared for.
What is a better way to get your child to communicate with you about their feelings and their day than sharing your own experiences with them? If the child feels that you are opening to them about something that is difficult for you or something that you may not want to share with anyone, this will make the child feel more at ease and comfortable in sharing their own feelings with you.
Often a child feels a void after sharing because they feel that the parent engages in advice giving more than just empathizing with them. Hence, it becomes very important for parents to affirm their children when they share something difficult and personal, as that is something that will help the child know that he or she has been heard and that there is no judgment from his or her parents.
As parents to the future leaders, there is a lot of responsibility on us to ensure that our children develop all the necessary skills that are required for them to grow and flourish in the future, but this can only be done when we find the most effective way of becoming a friend to our children and being open with them about situations we have gone through in their age and how we came out of it as this will have a very positive impact on the child’s growth.