by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
The Gen Z kids are not easy to interact with or communicate with. They seem to live in a different world, a world unknown to their parents and teachers, where the internet and the mobile phone are given realities. In such challenging times, how can parents and children interact in a healthy way? Let us see.
Each of your children is different, and has a different preferred way of interaction with parents. One may be an early morning person who would like to cuddle up next to you before dawn. He might be open to talking at that time. Another child may come alive on a car drive and talk to you incessantly. Still other children might like some alone-time just before bed. The key is to understand when you can optimize your interaction with your kids, and make use of those times.
Children are curious about what happens in the adult world. If you are a working parent, chances are that your daughter will ask ‘how was your day?’ after you finished asking ‘how was her day’. Parents should not be reluctant to share some selected incidents from their life, something the kid can relate to. This builds a kind of mutual trust that is the corner stone of healthy interactions.
Any formal attempt at sitting a child down and talking is one sure way to fail in communication with Gen Z kids. They would rather prefer conversations that happen incidentally, while you are both doing other things such as baking, or tidying up the house. The advantage of such ‘in-between’ times is that you and your child are in parallel positions at those times, both doing the same thing, instead of one confronting or facing the other. This gives greater comfort for interaction, especially if you are trying to communicate with a teenager.
Validate your child’s feelings. This means that you acknowledge what he is feeling at a certain point of time. Often parents make the mistake of immediately trying to solve the problem, when kids talk about hurt feelings. Saying ‘I understand’, nodding your head, naming feelings, and reflecting back is ideal when young kids are upset, scared or hurt. Make sure your responses are genuine and you really want to help.
It is great for a parent to remember the everyday happenings in a child’s life and follow up on a regular basis. For example, if your son reported that his best friend was absent from school that day, you can ask the following day, “Did Joe come today? Or is he still sick?” Parents usually do not have the mental energy to keep track of all their kids’ lives, but it is really worth it if they can.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be in control of one’s emotions, and to express them. It is also the ability to understand, and respond to other people’s emotions. A child’s emotional intelligence can be developed by an understanding parent who can help a child articulate her emotions and acknowledge them, but at the same time helping her to keep them under control. In the same way, encouraging her to talk about how her friends feel in a given situation, and how they respond to it, is essential.
What seems trivial to an adult may be super important to young people. Therefore, details and trivial matters should be paid attention to. A comment by a friend about your child’s outfit might seem very unimportant to you, but to your child, it is very important. So when your son or daughter reports such matters it should be taken with the seriousness it deserves.
Insistent and constant grilling and nagging about school or studies is a big mistake parents make. Children are put off by the question ‘How was school today?’ at dinner time. They would just say ‘great’ or ‘good’ and stop at that. There is no point in asking the same question in different words at bed time like ‘Did you have a good day?’ ‘How are your friends?’ etc. Such generic questions are best avoided.
Children today live in a different reality than the time when their parents were young. Still, they are children, and they need good advice that comes from experience. When a child approaches you with a problem, sometimes it is because he really doesn’t know what to do. Your job at that time is to help him find a solution, in the light of your experience.
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