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Five tips for better conversations with kids

 

By Linda Nguyen

If you are a parent, you probably understand the value of maintaining open communication with your kids. But getting there is not always easy – for parents, or for kids themselves.

“There are a lot of concrete things parents can do to have better conversations with kids and teens,” says Alisa Simon, VP of Counselling Services and Programs at Kids Help Phone. “Building trust and communication is really important, and it's an ongoing process.”

Here are some tips from Kids Help Phone:

• Let your kids know you are safe to talk to. Explicitly tell them that you're open to talking about the tough stuff, and that there's nothing they could say that would damage your relationship.

• Make space for organic opportunities to communicate. Instead of sitting your child down and saying “let's have a talk,” spend time together at a shared activity (like going out for lunch, taking a walk, shopping, or driving somewhere in the car) where conversation is more likely to arise naturally.

• When your child does bring something up, it's okay not to have all of the answers. You're not expected to.

• Don't make assumptions about what your child is experiencing. This shuts down the conversation and is a missed opportunity. Instead, ask questions, show you're interested, and give your child your full attention before jumping in.

• If you know your child is dealing with a specific issue, review the “Ask Us Online” section of kidshelpphone.ca, where young people write in with a question and receive back individualized responses from professional counsellors (there are dozens of topics, in categories such as school, dating, family, friends, bullying, the Internet, emotional health, and LGBTQ). It's a way to learn how other young people talk about the issue that is affecting your child, giving you a better understanding of their experiences. You can even go back later to explore the posts with your child.

Kids Help Phone is inviting Canadians to support young people's well-being through the organization's annual fundraising walk on May 4. More information is available at walksokidscantalk.ca.