By Katie Moosbrugger
A while back I read a blog written by a dad who offered ingenious advice. He and his wife were having a hard time communicating with their tween daughter. He knew something was up – she wasn’t acting like herself – but they could not get her to communicate with them. Sounded like a day in the life of any tween or teen.
Instead of resorting to those typical “conversation starters” that parenting experts always say to use, he tried a different approach. He simply went into her room, laid on the floor, and refused to leave until she started talking to him. I think he wound up staying on the floor for quite some time – but his tactic worked. Eventually the daughter opened up and starting talking – and talking, and talking, and talking.
I know that sounds like such basic advice but I thought it was brilliant. In our home, we have a rule that doors are not to be locked. And while on the surface that means to not physically turn the lock on your bedroom door, it’s also a reminder to me to try and keep the “doors” open with my kids as much as possible.
Sure, we use those typical “conversation starters” all the time. Every time we sit down at the dinner table we start the meal with “How was your day?”, “Tell us the best and worst thing that happened at school today”, “Did anything happen that was out of the ordinary?”, etc, etc. Ironically, our tween daughter is usually the one who runs with these questions, while our 8-year-old son makes it a painful process to pull the answers out of him.
But if there is something “off” in my daughter’s life, she is the first to shut the door and turn the lock.
Several years ago I blogged about a friendship circle that was silently hurting my daughter. It went on behind “closed doors” for months without me even realizing. I learned about it only when she came to me in tears. And while girl drama was not new to me, I panicked about how I could make the situation right. To my husband’s dismay, I went directly to the teachers to discuss it. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end – as do most girl drama situations – but I felt like a fish out of water – floundering around until I figured out how to fix something that I should have seen cracking.
Now I am mindful about keeping my foot on the door so I am not shut out. I realize I can only do this to a certain point with a tween-soon-to-be-teen daughter, but I’m trying as best as I can without being weird about it!
Instead of relying on those ready-made conversation starters, I find myself laying on her floor more than she’d probably like! Sometimes we don’t talk, sometimes we chat about complete nothingness, but sometimes – and sometimes if I lay there long enough – she opens up and tell me things that I wouldn’t have thought to ask.
At the very least, this floor time does more than open the doors for communication. It also gives a child undivided attention. Whether I am lying there counting the stick-on stars on her ceiling while she putts around her room, or whether we’re having a meaningful conversation, I’m just trying to show I am there for her. Hopefully a small act like this will keep the doors wide open for a lifetime of trust and communication.
Do you have a tactic (no matter how small or basic) that helps open communication with your children? Share your ideas with other readers as a comment below!
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