Parent-child communication survey: Tips for parents

THOUGH our culture forces kids to grow up too soon, parents are taking too little time to talk with their kids about the stuff that really matters.

The "Let's Connect" study examined the communication patterns and content of middle school students (grades five to eight ie ages 11 to 14) and their parents.

These are some pertinent findings of that survey collated by The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a non-profit organisation committed to building strong families by helping to bridge the cultural-generational gap between parents and adolescents:

Some findings
Parents and their adolescents don't spend enough time talking.

The survey found that most parents (58%) and almost three-quarters of the children (73%) say they spend less than one hour a day talking to each other. Sadly, nearly half the children (46%) and a quarter (27%) of the parents say they talk less than one-half hour a day.

Parents don't know what's important to their children.

If parents aren't listening, they can't understand. That accounts for the difference in parents' perceptions of their children's priorities. Parents said the top ones are: (1). fun; (2) friends; and (3) looks.

While these things are definitely important to children, here's what they listed as their top priorities: (1) their future; (2) their schoolwork; and (3) family matters.

Children don't always find it easy to talk to dad and mom.

Only one in five children (20%) say it's easy to talk to their parents about the things that really matter. More than a quarter (26%) said it was "somewhat difficult" or "very difficult" to do so.

Parents and adolescents both say they aren't allowed to explain themselves.

Ever find yourself listening harder to what you think your tween or teen is saying rather than what they're really trying to say? You're not alone. Most children (57%) said their parents don't always give them a chance to explain. Just more than half the parents (51%) felt the same way, saying their children do the same.

Adolescents like the opposite sex.

Some two-thirds (62%) of the children said the opposite sex was an important issue. Only half (52%) of parents thought their children were interested in boyfriends or girlfriends.

Tips for parents

Overcoming these communication barriers is an important key to leading our children from childhood into a spiritually and emotionally healthy adulthood. CPYU echoes the communication tips for parents offered by the "Let's Connect" researchers. Here are those suggestions:

Make time to communicate.

Your children want to talk. They need time and opportunity to talk. Make and take the time for communication. Start with simple things that are often forgotten, like eating meals together or talking while riding in the car.

Listen to the little stuff.

You may not think it's important to listen to what your children have to say about school, friends, homework or what you consider "trivial" issues of early adolescent life. If so, you're wrong. These things are important to your children. If they know you aren't listening about the little stuff, they probably won't come to you about the big stuff. Take an interest in everything they have to say.

Listen between the lines.

Sometimes they find it difficult to open up about the difficult issues they are facing. At other times, they may struggle to find the right words. At all times you must pay special attention to what they might be trying to say. Read their expressions. Listen to their emotions. Ask clarifying questions. You'll be helping them open up.

Ask their opinion.

Do you want to make your children feel valued, special and important? Ask their opinion on a regular basis, and don't forget to listen as they share it! Ask about the important and not-so-important issue - everything from school to friends to the job you're doing as a parent to politics, etc.

Don't interrupt.

Give them time to explain their opinions, even if you think you know what's coming next. If you've been interrupted, you know how quickly good communication can get cut off.


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