It is important to instill in all children a sense of comfort in communicating with their parents. As your child gets older, the questions and struggles that your child needs to address with you become more difficult. The queries don’t always have easy answers, but it is important to answer your child as honestly as is appropriate. As the trust and comfort builds in your child, you will realize that it is more comfortable for you, and that the scary, awkward conversations you have been dreading are now completely manageable.
As a co-parent, I have realized that there are more “big talks” that I get to address. Questions such as, “Why don’t you live with my dad anymore,” get sprinkled in with the talks about the birds and the bees. We have had some serious topics that we have had to discuss, and as my son gets older, the conversation topics get more difficult. But it warms my heart that he is still coming to me and asking me these questions.
“You Get to Have Two Houses Now”
Since he was young, I have strived to approach topics with him at his level. He was only 2 when I left his dad, so there wasn’t a big talk about why his dad and I didn’t work out. The explanation was simple, “You get to have two houses now! Mommy lives here, and daddy lives at the other house.” And at two, that was all of the explanation he needed. Obviously the questions have gotten more difficult. In addressing the ongoing questions, I have found that keeping a few things in mind help me give my son the answers he needs, and makes him feel comfortable returning to me time and time again as he gets older and the questions get more difficult.
As an adult, we are proficient in having conversations. One question can lead into an hour long conversation. This isn’t the way to communicate with your child. They don’t have the attention span, for one. And you will probably end up giving them too many details and they will end up confused. Answer their questions in as few words as possible.
Keep It Age Appropriate
You do not want to go into details with your 5 year old about your husband’s affair with the neighbor. That is way over their head, and if your child figures out what an affair is, you have permanently labeled your ex-husband as a bad person in your child’s eyes. Your 17 year old, on the other hand, will probably not be satisfied with the simple, “We just don’t love each other anymore.”
Tackle Big Topics A Little At a Time
The Birds and the Bees conversation started with my son at age 3 when my sister was pregnant with her first daughter. Christian wanted to know how the baby was going to get out of the belly. Thankfully he wasn’t concerned at that time how she got in there, but wanted to know how she was getting out. He already knew a little about boy parts and girl parts, so this question just took the anatomy talk to a little deeper level. As time has passed, the conversation has become more detailed as he is old enough to understand more. It isn’t necessary to cover all of the information at once.
This is key to making sure conversations aren’t awkward. If your son turns 15 and you decide that now is the time to start talking about safe sex, but you have never even had the Birds and the Bees conversation, it is going to be a little strange. You can’t go from 0 to 60 with kids. You have to ease into these conversations; you have to build a solid foundation of comfort so that you become their trusted source of information.
Make Time for Conversations
When your child has questions for you, give them your full attention. I know life gets busy, and as single parents we multi-task like never before. But it is important that you take your child’s curiosity seriously. When you take the time to sit down with him to answer questions, he will appreciate your attention. When the time comes that you want to initiate conversations, he will show you the same respect you have shown him.
If you keep these tips in mind, it will be easier to communicate with your child and it will be easier for them to communicate with you. Loosing touch with my son in his teenage years scares me to no extent. As they are rapidly approaching, I am focusing more on communicating with my son. From the small topics, like taking care of his skin as he gets older and his body will start changing, to the larger ones, like his father remarrying and having a new half-brother, every thing is fair game. If you keep them talking constantly, you will not have much difficulty getting them to come to you when they need advice and have questions.