One way I promote and encourage communication between parents and children is to have the parents reveal themselves to their children. Reveal something about yourself that your child does not know about you. You want to make this age appropriate and give an example of something that will attract the attention of your son or daughter and perhaps allow them to see you in a different light. One story I commonly share as an example is a time when I was ten and I was enrolled in ballet. When it came time for the year-end recital, I was so scared that my feet were literally shaking during the rehearsal and I know that fear showed on my face.
However, when it came time for the performance and those bright lights of the stage were on my face, suddenly all the fear melted away, I felt like a star, and I had the performance of a lifetime (my lifetime at least). Suddenly ballet was not just another activity I did to pass the time, but it gave me an identity and a way to showcase my talents.
You can understand my disappointment when my mother took me out of ballet classes because we could not afford them the next year. But that one experience in ballet taught me that I loved performing and being on stage. And I learned not to be afraid of challenges, because there are so many things that you learn about yourself when you challenge yourself.
I could have become so discouraged by my fears during the rehearsal, that I was not going to perform. And indeed my father came up to me after the performance and told me that I looked so scared during the rehearsal, that he and my mother thought I was not going to make it to the performance. But they saw the transformation in me once the lights went up.
So this is a story I would share with my children. The story would create a picture in their mind, and that picture may touch them in a deeper way than if I simply told them that challenges are good because they teach you about yourself. Or if I said “you may be afraid to do something, but sometimes you have to push through those fears to get to something great.” They may understand the sage advice, but the picture stays in their mind and has a better chance to get into their heart.
You might then have your child relate a story where they were challenged perhaps to do something in school that they were afraid to do or felt they did not have any talent for, yet were pleasantly surprised by the outcome. They were actually glad to have been challenged in that way, because it taught them something. They may also share stories of how they overcame peer pressure to use drugs or helped a friend not to use drugs. Sharing these life lessons also helps build their self esteem.
Of course, some kids will simply not have a story to share. But see whether they want to hear more stories from you. As you share more stories, they will eventually open up and hopefully share one or two of their own.
The sharing of stories between yourself and your children creates the stage for real conversation, communication, and engagement. And as you share your story, don’t just stop there. Ask yourself why you shared that particular story. Why did that story stand out in your mind, and what did it ultimately reveal to you about yourself.
As your child thinks about his or her own stories, it will help them to define and refine who they are, what they value, and what they desire in life. This type of sharing will also provide for and strengthen the foundation of parental support that your child will need as they prepare to launch into the world and be successful in life.
Life is a journey and we all face many challenges along the way. Having family support (roots) and dreams and goals for the future (wings) makes life interesting and keeps us engaged.
If this post resonates with you or you have a story to share, please feel free to post a comment.