Sometimes, we get lost in our everyday routine, and even if we don’t, we only see ourselves as parents and educators and we believe that the most important thing is to teach our children moral rules, while communication, real, profound communication, gets left behind.

Unfortunately, we forget how to talk with our children heart to heart, with honesty and trust. And if this situation goes on for long enough, relationships between parents and children become increasingly formal, and the generational gap, created by this failure to communicate, grows.

How can we avoid this sad situation?

Studies have shown that parents offer their children, on average, 12.5 minutes a day. And of this interval, 8.5 minutes are reserved for suggestions, opinions, critique and fights. So all that’s left for a friendly atmosphere, based on trust, is 4 minutes a day!

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Writer Jamie Harrington found a solution. She thought of 4 questions that parents should ask their children every day. The writer explained that this method allows her to maintain an emotional connection with the child, even if her schedule doesn’t allow her any days of rest.

“I have less and less time for my little girl. But even though I am very busy, I still put aside 15 minutes every evening for a heart to heart conversation. I believe that this way, I always leave an open door so that, when in need, my daughter can still share what’s really important to her. Don’t think I get elaborate answers every day, most of the time she only says a few words, but there are moments when we discuss really important topics for her. I simply ask her these 4 questions every day and I listen carefully. It’s important that my daughter knows I’m there for her”, says Jamie Harrington.

So, here are the 4 questions that will help you build and maintain a strong relationship with your child, even if you don’t have a lot free time to spend with him.

1. How was today for you?

If at first, while he’s not used to this method, he might joke about it or answer using only one word, like “bad” or “good”, don’t start grilling him, pushing for more detail. What you can say, however, is: “Ok, if you’re not going to tell me, I will. But you know, I was really interested in your day. So, today I…” By seeing what you’re doing, in time, even the shyest the most independent of children will start sharing what’s on his mind.

2. How are your friends?

You can ask about a certain friend, especially when you know that something important is happening in his life, or it can just remain a general question. Other types of questions, alternatives to this one, might be: “Which one of your friends do you like best? Why? Tell me more about your best friend. What qualities should a good friend have? What is the best thing a friend has ever done for you? What is the best thing you’ve ever done for any of your friends?” Just adapt the questions to the context and your child’s age.

3. What good things happened to you today?

Even on a cloudy, rainy day, after a math test, you child can still remember a few good things that happened to him. But if he can’t, you can look together for ways to cheer up and have some fun. Maybe go to an unplanned movie at the theater, or play some family games, or just think about your next holiday or even plan the next weekend. These positive thoughts will ease the day’s load off of both you and your child’s backs.

4. Do you need my help?

You’ve probably noticed how hard it is to ask for help sometimes. And a child who is not used to receiving help with small things, will not come to ask for help in a more complicated situation. So you could start by helping him with small things, like cleaning up his room, doing homework etc. Don’t be afraid that you might spoil him. The closer you are to your child, through the help and support he gets from you on a daily basis, the bigger the chance that he’ll come ask for advice in case of a bigger conflict. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should do things for your child. It’s normal for him to do things independently if he can handle them on his own.

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Once you’ve started having this conversation with your child every day, your relationship will be increasingly better, with one condition. While you listen to the child, don’t rush into judgment, teach him what to do or give any advice. Comment on things only when you are asked to and help the child find his own solutions. And while you talk to him, try positioning yourself at the same level as he is, so that he doesn’t perceive you as his superior. Physical contact is also important: you can take his hand, caress or hug him.

Also, there will be days when you’re not in a very good mood, when there are other things on your mind and when you won’t feel up to it. Just leave the conversation for later or for the next day.

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