Tips to get talking

A step at a time

The balance between protecting and giving freedom to a child is not easy. You can’t be by their side all the time and they wouldn’t thank you if you did that anyway.

However, with communication and trust, you can help them to make the right decisions in risky situations, learn from their mistakes, come to you for advice and remain safe.

A few small changes can make the difference but don't expect success in one day. Takeitonestepatatime.

Nobody’s perfect

Recognise that neither you nor your child is perfect. What works for one child or under certain circumstances may not work for another.
Accept the view that mistakes (from you or the children) are inevitable, and the important thing is to learn from them.

Get to know your child

Get to know your child as an individual. Do you really know what they like and dislike, about themselves or the world around them? What would they change about their life (or you)?

Find the time to ask them, and to really listen to their answers.
You may find out that you don't know them as well as you think you do, and they will feel that their opinion really counts.

Create a bond

When children feel they are valued members of a stable group, they stick easier to the agreed rules.

Give your child a sense of belonging by doing things together, finding out what they like, cooking together, getting out as a family.
Creating routines means you can spend some time together, gives more opportunities for communication, and helps your child to talk to you if there is a problem.

Make them feel respected

It may seem obvious, but making your children feel respected often gets overlooked in our daily routines.
Your child's opinion counts and they should feel they can express their views in a supportive environment. Let them know any changes that will affect them, and let them know you're proud of them too. If their friends got into trouble and your child wasn't involved, say how proud you are that they acted so maturely.

Set limits

It's important for children to know the rules and the consequences of not sticking to them. They will test you, so don't make threats you're not prepared to carry out. An effective punishment is to remove privileges - a planned “going out to the cinema” night, visiting friends, watching TV. 

However, don't forget to praise them when they do the right thing. When you explain the reasons for setting the rules, you help children to stick to them and develop a sense of responsibility. Knowing who they're with and when they'll be back is important for their safety and not just your calmness.

Trust them

Trusting your children means making them feel you tell them the truth (especially about unacceptable or risky issues) and you won't get angry or judge them.
Being willing to listen to their side of the story, and discussing the other options, will help them to make sensible choices in the future. 
Truth is essential to open and honest communication. If your child feels safe discussing difficult issues with you, then he will talk to you when he needs to and listen to what you have to say.

Make sure they are informed

Children are often more informed than we think but they don't always know the facts. Whatever the issue is, make sure your child has the right information, and knows where to go if he needs further information.
Try to avoid lectures or intimidation, and instead discuss objectively the advantages and drawbacks together. Use language your child understands and relevant examples, and encourage them to share their views too.

Give them the good example

As a parent, don't underestimate the influence of your actions, attitudes, words and choices. They have a huge impact on your child's behaviour. Consider what message your example gives to your child.
It's difficult to encourage them to make sensible decisions if you don’t give them the good example!