At 13, Cheta had her first period, and alarmed, she approached her mother. Her mother sat her down to talk about the changes she was going through. She explained the significance of menstruation and also talked about boys and sexual desires. She spoke about the family’s values and stressed the significance of respect, communication, and the value of making responsible choices.
On the other hand, Nony, also 13, overheard something about sex and became curious, seeking guidance; she approached her mother, hoping for clarification. Unfortunately, her mother, uncomfortable with the topic, rebuked her, saying it was inappropriate for her age and she had ‘’gotten spoilt’’. Feeling confused and still curious, Nony sought information from her friends. However, her friends lacking accurate knowledge themselves provided misleading information.
The first story illustrates the positive impact of open- parent-child communication, which fosters trust, and understanding, and ensures that a child is equipped with accurate information to make informed decisions. The second story highlights the consequences of a lack of open communication between parents and children. When children are discouraged from seeking information from reliable sources they may turn to other sources, potentially receiving inaccurate or incomplete information.
The link between these stories emphasizes the critical role parent-child communication plays in molding a child’s understanding of especially complex and sensitive topics such as puberty and sexuality among others. Open dialogue not only imparts accurate information but also provides a supportive means for children to navigate the challenges of adolescence, and increases children’s adoption of safer behaviors.
Essentials for effective parent-child communication:
- Spending Quality Time Together
Quality time is an important aspect of parent-child communication. It allows for bonding and connection between parents and their children. Participating in activities that encourage natural conversation like cooking together, watching television together, eating meals together, and simply sitting down together to talk about their day encourages natural conversation between parents and their children.
- Talk Honestly and Openly with Your Child
Who else can your kids talk openly to if not you?
Parents should speak openly and honestly with their children, no matter the topic, and encourage them to do the same. So, they can understand complex issues and develop their perspectives. It can be tough to know how to broach sensitive subjects, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to make the conversation run more smoothly.
First, create a comfortable environment where your child feels safe expressing themselves. Second, avoid criticizing, and judgmental language and be respectful of their opinions. Finally, be open to listening to their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Parents can model open communication by also sharing their own feelings and thoughts. Ultimately, what matters most is that your children feel comfortable talking to you about anything.
- Speak Clearly and Use Age-Appropriate Language
Tailor your language to be understandable for your child and appropriate for their age and level of maturity, using pictures as well as illustrations that are appropriate in the conversation. Be clear, and specific, avoid using words or phrases that might be confusing to the child and instead use simple and direct terms in your discussions.
- Use Friendly Words
Do not use harsh words. In our culture raising your voice at your child and speaking in harsh tones is very common, however, this isn’t always appropriate as it can instill fear in a child and make you seem unapproachable. Be careful to choose words that are encouraging and supportive and speak without aggression. Using kind language helps set a positive example for your children. Remember, the conversation should make your child feel respected and loved.
- Avoid Blame
Parents should avoid blaming, criticizing, or looking for faults in their children as this can put them down and make them feel rejected. This can make your children feel defensive and shut down the conversation. Instead, put careful consideration into the words you use and how you use them.
- Listen to Your Child
Effective communication is not only about expressing thoughts but also about mindful and active listening. Most parents preach rather than engage their children in conversations. There’s much more to what your children say than most parents realize, so paying attention to what they say is incredibly important. Avoid speaking over them or finishing their sentences for them, as a result, your children will know when you are listening to them.
- Participation of Both Parents is encouraged
In a typical Nigerian home, fathers sometimes seem unreachable to their children and mothers are the first point of call for their children when they want to discuss certain topics. In certain scenarios where the mother is not present, children would rather go outside to seek help than approach their fathers. It is important that both parents are involved in discussions, to present a unified stance on family values and expectations to their children. This shows that they are both invested in the well-being and development of their child.
- Encourage Questions
As children develop, they become more curious so it is important to promote a culture of curiosity for your children, it is a great way to foster open communication and it shows that their questions and thoughts are valued and that they’re free to ask about anything that’s on their mind.
In conclusion, It is every parent’s ultimate desire that their child develops healthy emotions, intellect, and morals so they can positively contribute to society. This depends on them having a strong, supportive, and trusting relationship with their principal guardian- their parents and also gives them the confidence to navigate other relationships and apply these values in their interaction with others. Effective parent-child communication plays a pivotal role in shaping a child’s future and overall well-being and should be highly prioritized.