One of the things we will find as we raise our children on up into middle school is how much the chatter diminishes and how the communication can eventually grind to a halt. Whereas we could sometimes hardly get our elementary aged child (and especially our kindergartner) to take a breath before they were on another roll about their day, we will more often than not get little to nothing out of our middle schoolers. Unfortunately, in some cases, the lack of communication increases up through high school. That’s why it is so critical to set the foundation of discourse early on.
If we don’t touch base with our children on a regular basis and “take their pulse” (so to speak), they will often slowly disappear into their own world of fashion, social media, sports, cliches, extracurricular activities, peer groups (hopefully not gangs), and God forbid, alcohol, drugs and sex. It is a fine line between micromanaging and staying aware of your child’s whereabouts, who they hang with, what they are doing, and what they are thinking about the struggles they face. You can bet that the world they are learning to navigate is far different from the world we grew up in~ especially with the advent of internet and social media! It is way too easy for them to socialize with their friends, instead of us!
Consequently, we need to talk with them every chance we get. That’s not to say, lecture them about grades or lack of responsibility or any of the many other issues that might arise in those tenuous middle and high school years. I mean, we must sit down, look them in the eye, and express interest in what is going on in their world. We need to stay in touch or face the very real possibility that we will lose touch, and open the door to crises down the road. It is our job as parents of 13-18 year old teenagers to mentor them in those years, having laid a foundation of leadership leading up to the middle school years.
One of the ways that my husband and I kept tabs on things was to eat dinner as often as possible around our kitchen table. It was difficult with sports and musicals, youth group and music lessons, but we made it a big priority. Then as we sat around the table, we would play a game~ “Okay, what was your high and what was your low today?” Often we would get “I got a good grade on a math test…but Horatio spread a rumor about me today!” Or: “I made the musical…but I got yelled at for forgetting my science homework!” All these responses should be viewed as wonderful chances to find out about their day, their feelings, their concerns, their excitement about something…it’s a launching pad for further discussion.
Are you having a hard time getting any information out of your child? Try the High/Low game at dinner and see what transpires. Remember: don’t pounce on the lows or turn it into an opportunity to reprimand your child for some misbehavior. Just listen! You may be very surprised at what you find out. Furthermore, it will set the groundwork for open communication later on during dinner and later in their growing up years, when you might have been shut out~ literally!
Ann Van De Water ~ Author, MOMMY MEMOIRS
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