Fall 2017 / by Mari Fitz-Wynn

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11

We’ve all learned as adults that communicating with others is not just important, it is necessary. We must communicate, in one way or another, to have our basic needs met, function in a work environment, or interact with our family at home.

From a very early age, our children learn basic communication skills from us. Encouraging them to talk with us, and giving them the freedom to talk about any subject no matter how uncomfortable will pay off down the road as they begin trying to navigate life more independently of mom and dad. Conversations with your teens and young adult children do not have to hit an impasse if you build a strong foundation by spending time together talking and discussing matters both small and great. Verbal and non-verbal communication are equally important, but in this article, we will focus on verbal communication skills that will help strengthen, energize and enliven your ability to stay connected with your children.

Let me share three of seven keys I’ve found worked well for my children and me.

Make talking a part of the daily routine. When we are intentional about spending time talking with our child (children) consistently, it becomes easier to deal with difficult subjects as they arise. Set aside time to talk with your child each day. This practice will help offset the times when busy schedules or crises may use up our available time.

Recognize that sometimes the conversation may go longer than other times. At times, there may not be much to say. That’s okay; the point here is to make time to chat regularly. Regular chats will help to head off forced interactions and allow both you and your child, or children, opportunities to develop a relationship with spurts, spontaneous growth, or to set the pattern for planned conversations that take place after meals, before bedtime, or throughout the day.

Offer a silent mouth and sympathetic ear. As parents, we are inclined to try to fix our children’s problems. We want to prepare the road for the child rather than preparing the child for the road. Learn to listen without offering an immediate solution. This approach will help your child develop the skills needed to problem solve and work through whatever is bothering them. I remember a mom offering a comment about a situation that had recently taken place with her teenage daughter. The mom had noticed her daughter was feeling a little down or discouraged, and asked, “What’s wrong?” The daughter respectfully answered that she wasn’t ready to talk about it yet; she needed some time to figure out a few things. “Plus, mom,” she offered, “whenever I tell you about a problem you jump right in and start trying to help me figure it out, and this time I need to do that for myself. May I come to you if I can’t find an answer, or once I do, to make sure I’m on the right track?” This story illustrates that a wise mother will learn to recognize when she needs to give her daughter space.

As we parent and teach, we will make mistakes, and our children will, as well. Though it takes work, seeking to maintain good communication with our children will pay many dividends, especially in the hard times.

Mari Fitz-Wynn has twenty years of experience as a leader in home education. She published her first book, Take Heart: 26 Steps to a Healthy Home School in June 2014 and has published a myriad of articles for NCHE GREENHOUSE magazine and various other home education newsletters. She is a home education consultant and president of Heart for Home School Ministries, Inc. Her blog is Heart Matters. (www.heartforhomeschool.org). She is the former lobbyist for NCHE.