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  • 5 Vital Conversations You Need to Have With Your Child Again and Again

    Constant communication develops a deeper connection between parent and child.
    by Kitty Elicay .
5 Vital Conversations You Need to Have With Your Child Again and Again
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Sure, kids seek attention often, but they what they really crave for is a deeper connection with their parents. And the way we interact with them “helps shape how they respond to us and to other people in their lives,” says Shauna Tominey, a parenting education specialist at Oregon State University and author of Creating Compassionate Kids: Essential Conversations to Have with Young Children.

    “That connection is also the only reason children willingly follow our rules,” says psychologist and parenting expert Laura Markham in her column for Psychology Today. When kids see their parents are making an effort to understand and be on their side, the children are motivated to follow their parents’ lead when they can.

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    How can we foster that connection? Tominey says it’s by paying attention and responding to our kids. “We let our children know they are loved for who they are, help them learn to trust the adults in their lives, teach them skills to manage big emotions and challenges, and encourage them to approach others with compassion,” she says. In her book, the parenting educator highlights five types of conversation with kids that are vital to have again and again.

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    1. Tell your child you love her for who she is now and who she will become in the future.

    As our children get older, we slowly get a sense of who they can be when they grow up. But rather than push them toward the direction we want, as parents we should instead create a trusting relationship where they feel accepted and loved for who they are now.

    This relationship is called “secure attachment,” which starts from infancy where your baby develops a sense of trust in his caregiver and leads to how safe he feels when he explores his environment. As your baby grows, you can strengthen this relationship by spending time with your child and paying attention to his interests. Tominey says avoid multi-tasking during these activities because you need to show your child that your focus is solely on them.

    Research shows that children who have secure attachments have high self-esteem and better self-control, strong critical thinking skills, and fare better in school than other kids who don’t. They have strong social skills and exhibit greater empathy and compassion, too.

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    2. Show your child you want to understand why he is crying.

    Negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, frustration, anger, and fear are taxing both for you and your child, but it cannot be helped. As they experience new things, they are bound to have these feelings, which may manifest in tantrums and challenging behavior because they are trying to navigate through the emotions.

    Instead of getting angry, Markham says parents should welcome the tears and fears that are hidden behind the tantrums. “Remember that you’re the one he trusts enough to cry with,” the psychologist says.

    It would also help if you can identify the reason behind the tantrums. Try asking this the next time your child cries: “When I’m sleepy, I get pretty cranky. I’m wondering if you are feeling sleepy right now,” and see what he’ll answer.

    “Acknowledge all those feelings and offer an understanding of the pain. That creates safety so he can move through those emotions and back into connection,” says Markham.

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    3. Let your child express her feelings in different ways.

    At 2 or 3 years old, toddlers will have a hard time regulating emotions, so they cry and scream when upset. But as they grow, they should also learn that there are other ways to express their feelings. “Talk with your child about your family’s emotion rules,” Tominey suggests. “How do you want the children and adults in your family to show different emotions when they arise?"

    Parents with young children can try reading books together, choosing stories where different characters tackle various feelings. They can also practice problem-solving when faced with emotionally charged situations.

    4. Show your child making mistakes is part of learning.

    While kids need to know it’s okay to make mistakes, what’s more important is to learn from these mistakes. Parents have a big role in helping their kids turn challenging moments into learning opportunities, says Tominey, and it starts by highlighting their efforts.

    Focusing on the process lets them see that determination and diligence leads to a more significant accomplishment. A new study suggests that “using verbs to talk about actions with children, such as encouraging them to help, read, and paint, may help lead to more resilience following the setbacks that they inevitably experience.”

    This cultivates a “growth mindset” where kids realize that skills aren’t inborn. It takes time, perseverance, and patience.

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    5. Let your child see that you have your vulnerabilities, too.

    There are times when we are overwhelmed with parenting guilt in the same way that our kids fear failure. “Learning from you that making mistakes is okay and then seeing you work on learning and growing as a person will show your child how to do the same,” says Tominey.

    It’s essential to have an open communication with your kids, especially when they reach their teenage years and start feeling uncomfortable about sharing their feelings. “Talk about what you are working on, why it’s hard, and what you are doing to improve,” suggests Tominey. “You can give your children ideas for strategies that they can use themselves.”

    Remember that you are one of the most important role models in your child’s eyes, but while they are learning from you, realize that you can also learn a lot from them. Constant conversations with your children not only develop compassion and empathy — it is also a way to show them that they are loved.

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