September 3, 2015
The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:
Last week I began a conversation about Communication, focusing primarily on how we communicate with one another. I continue this week, addressing it from a more philosophical viewpoint – the why of communication.
The importance of having conversations: Parents need to talk with their children. I know that sounds very simplistic, but I fear we spend more time talking at, to, or about our kids than we do talking with them. Challenge yourself to have conversations that get below the surface.
There will, of course, be discussions about schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, but there is more to your children than what they do. There should also be conversations about who they are and how they feel. What challenges are they facing? What do they worry about? What brings them joy? What is their passion? What do they need help with? Where are they in their faith journey?
Given the opportunity, they will open up. When they do, spend more time listening than talking. Build trust with them, so they will know they can come to you when times are tough.
Choosing the words you use carefully: I often hear parents say, “My kids don’t listen to me.” Just the opposite is true. They may not respond to you, but they hear every word you say…and every word you say sends them a message. We need to make sure we choose words that send the right message.
Examples: We send a message to our kids, whether intentional or not, when we make jokes about race or gender, or paint an entire group of people with one judgmental brush. We send a message when we imply that having sex, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs are “what teenagers do,” or when we brag about the sexual exploits and crazy parties we experienced as teens. We send a message when we comment negatively about the school, a teacher, or a decision that was made without having all of the facts.
Our words send a clear message. When we use positive, affirming, and inclusive language, our kids will get a positive, affirming, and inclusive message. They will likely choose to use that same type of language themselves.
Parent-to-parent communication: I hope you will make it a point to get to know one another. It is important that you know the parents of your child’s friends. For better or worse, those parents will have an influence on your child.
Simple communication between parents will make us all more comfortable. It will confirm that our children are where they said they’d be, are doing what they said they’d be doing, and are with adults that are watching over them as if they were their own.
This is what we mean when we say, “It takes a village to raise a child.”