Talk right !!


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Talk right

Balance the tight-rope act of communicating with your adolescent.

If you've just celebrated your child's 11th birthday, you need a heads up: gone are the days when they'd tell you every little detail of their life, right from the colour of the walls in their class to the size of their friend's new puppy.Questions like `how are you?' or `how was your day?' are likely to receive monosyllabic answers and you are bound to feel rejected, critiqued and disheartened.
But, remember that this is a natural process.

Dr Michael Ungar, author of I Still Love You: Nine things troubled kids need from their parents, and co-director of Canada's Resilience Research Centre, explains, "As they get older, children seek to define their own identities. Often, that means rejecting some aspect of their parents. We can mistakenly assume our children reject all of our values, when in fact, they are often experimenting with new identities but not rejecting everything that we passed to them."

Juhu based clinical psychologist Dr Manasi Bhat adds that often the search of their own identity, leads to conflicting emotions. "They want to be accepted and appreciated by their loved ones and are often not able to share their feelings with their parents," she adds.

However, handling the situation with patience can help parents retain some level of involvement in their child's life.

Parenting experts say that half the problem begins with how parents approach their pre-teen and teenage kids. Parents believe that their children are not mature enough to handle their own problems and must seek their help. While their constant questions stem from anxiety, children interpret this as lack of trust. "Children of parents who believe that they must know all about their child, find their questioning interrogative and controlling. In retaliation, they may resort to not talking. They know no other way," says Dr Bhat.

"Don't nag," advices Dr Ungar."Instead of always asking questions, tell your child about your day. Ask them for help and get their opinion on subjects. No one likes to be badgered with questions constantly.Rather than asking `how was your school today', ask about something special the child learned or share something you learned at work and bring the child into a conversation," he adds.

Generic questions will not get you the answers you're searching for."Be specific. Notice the child's behaviour and concern and address it, but never be confrontational," advices Dr Bhat.

The right ambiance counts too. "I encourage parents to find a place that the child feels safe in. I love car rides as you are both facing forward and it is less intimidating, and the child can't leave. Neither can you. Bedrooms are often safe spaces, or anywhere the child is relaxed," suggests Dr Ungar.

The idea is to create a secure and non-threatening psychological environment so that the child can feel free to share their life, says Dr Bhat, adding that a pizza treat or a stroll round the corner where both can listen and share is a good idea too.

Put yourself in your child's shoes."Even if you are concerned about your child's safety, raising your voice only communicates anger," points out Dr Bhat. Take time to think back to your own experience as a child and do what you would have found helpful. "I'd encourage a parent to think first about when he or she was the same age as the child and remember what was helpful.How did adults talk to you and which tone was the easiest to hear?

In some contexts, a `Wake up' kid and almost shouting might be necessary, another time, it's a hug and gentle tone. If the problem is extreme, like drug abuse, then the tone should be full of authority," says Dr Ungar.

Avoid fighting fire with fire. If they scream, don't respond by screaming, similarly don't reinforce their silent treatment strategy. Give time.Believing in your child's potential to share problems will gradually lead to a respectful interaction between the two.

However, Dr Bhat says parents must know certain details of their child's life -their whereabouts, information about his acquaintances, habits, scholastic details and safety. In no scenario must these be compromised. "It is a basic right of the parent to know their child's wellbeing. This message has to reach them strong and clear," says Dr Bhat.

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