There ain’t no pain like kid pain.
It’s bad grammar, but real truth. If you’ve walked through any challenges with your kids (and let’s be honest, we all have) you know this kind of pain. It cuts deep.
Raising children is an incredible responsibility we are entrusted with…but it’s also messy. It takes time, effort, and a great deal of emotional and physical energy. It’s challenging, it’s tough, it’s painful and it’s worth it.
Trust me, I know. Brandy and I are raising two teenagers, a pre-teen, and a 6-year-old. You can pray for us!
One thing I know to be true:
Figuring out how to communicate in a healthy way with our kids is a non-negotiable.
I’m no expert, but I’ve watched people I trust do it well and have learned over the years some tried and true things that work when cultivating healthy communication with your kids:
1) CREATE A CULTURE WHERE ‘NO QUESTION IS A BAD QUESTION’
Kids are curious beings. And they will find the answers they are looking for. The real question is “Who are they asking?”
Let’s face it, from the internet, to TV, to peers, there are a lot of competing voices out there vying for our kids’ attention. On top of that, access has never been easier than it is today, with a wealth of information (both good and bad) just a click away.
If we’re not cultivating an environment in our home where our kids feel free to ask us the tough questions, they’ll go somewhere else to ask. And you may not be happy with the results.
“Ok, Jeff, that’s a great idea, but what if I don’t have all the answers?” Trust me, I’ve been there.
- Be honest—it goes a long way. They can see right through avoidance or beating around the bush.
- Affirm their question and offer to pray/think about it together.
- Ask God and seek wisdom from His Word.
- Get guidance from multiple anchors. Talk with your spouse, a pastor, or a trusted friend.
- Revisit the conversation.
Bottom line: we don’t have to know everything, but whether it’s about science, religion, sex or technology, we want to be the sounding board for our kids.
2) HAVE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE, CONVERSATIONS
Parenting is a slow burn. It’s a long-term investment and you want to systematically and continuously deposit in the account long before you ever have to draw on it.
And if you don’t wait, the return will be exponential.
Part of this investment comes from having proactive conversations with your kids. That’s before the DEFCON 5 emergency happens and everything comes crashing down in a pile of ashes.
At that point you’re reacting out of emotion—usually out of anger or frustration—and it never gives the results you want. Recent research has shown that when teenagers perceive parent’s reactions to be overly negative, they either respond by becoming aggressive/defensive or completely shutting down.
Proactive communication with our kids allows us to anticipate problems before they reach the boiling point. This saves us a lot of pain, arguments and hurt feelings.
- Have a heart connection with each of your kids every single day. A great time to do this is at bedtime when their hearts tend to be open and receptive.
- Break up the tough conversations into bite-sized pieces.
- Remember each kid is created and wired differently. Communicate accordingly.
- Know that communication changes as our kids grow. As they mature from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, we change from cop, to coach, to consultant.
From defiant toddlers, to sibling rivalries, wayward teens, to prodigals we long to see come home, we know that family isn’t easy. It’s complicated and challenging and the wounds are painful to heal. But it’s what we are created for and it’s how God builds.
Trust me, you won’t regret investing in creating healthy lines of communication with your kids. It’s worth it! Whether we’re raising our natural children or spiritual sons and daughters, partnering with God to shape and train hearts to build His Kingdom, is one of our greatest privileges.