Open, honest communication is one of the foundations for a great relationship, and this is something as parents we all strive for with our kids.

It’s important to have open communication with our kiddos starting at a young age to build trust and confidence in our relationships. Kids need to know their parents are in their corner and support them, even when they make mistakes. Make time each day to ask questions about friends, classes and activities.

Below are a few suggestions on how to help foster this communication.

• Be specific and ask open ended questions such as: “What did you do in math class today?” “Who did you play with at recess?” or “What did you learn at practice today?”

• Ask questions that will get more than a yes or no answer and listen to what your child is saying. If they’re telling you about a problem they’re having or a mistake they made, don’t immediately offer a solution or react in a negative manner.

• Ask them follow up questions to see how they’re handling it or what they can do differently next time based on what they learned. 

The less we talk, the more they can tell us about what’s going on in their life and learn to problem solve situations on their own. Remember, it’s our job as parents to know what’s going on in our kiddos’ lives so we can help them grow into successful individuals!

We also want to teach our children how to communicate honestly, by answering questions factually, by including all details and facts and by taking responsibility for any inappropriate behaviors.

• Part of this is learned by watching our daily interactions with significant others, family members and others we have contact with. Our kids are paying attention, especially from a young age, and will try to imitate what they see us role model.

• The other part is practicing what it looks like to tell the truth and talking about how telling lies can negatively impact the trust in our relationship.

— It’s important to positively reinforce the behavior when we catch them telling the truth and explain that this helps build trust, which will allow for more responsibility and freedom.

— On the flip side, when we catch them in a lie, it’s just as important to have them earn a consequence and explain how this lie has caused us to lose trust and how that impacts our decisions. In addition to a consequence, talk to your child about what they can do moving forward to gain that trust back.

• Keep it simple. Address the behavior of lying, have them earn a consequence, practice telling the truth about something and move on. The more we can practice telling the truth, the more automatic it will become in conversation.

Having open communication and teaching our kiddos how to communicate honestly will improve our relationships and help our kiddos be more successful as they venture out into the world. For more information about encouraging open and honest dialogue, visit www.boystown.org.

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Jennifer Simpson joined Boys Town in 2013 as a Family Teacher working with teenage boys and began working for the Intervention and Assessment homes in 2016 as an Intake and Compliance Specialist. In her current position Jennifer assesses youth referrals from different agencies regarding placement in the I&A homes, as well as provides resource information to consumers in need of services. Jennifer is also the mother of two young children and has a Bachelor of Social Work and a Master’s in Business Administration.

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