A recent study, conducted by the University of Michigan, documents that parents spend only 5 minutes per week engaged in direct face-to-face communication with their children. I think we would all agree that this finding needs improvement. During my career as a Certified Addiction Counselor (C.A.C.), I have been puzzled as to why we don’t place a greater emphasis on family communication. I realize that our family life has changed drastically in that there are more social functions, extracurricular activities and demands outside the home, however, we must make time for good quality exchange of communication between parent and child. Remember, parents have the responsibility to initiate or foster the communication. Don’t wait for our kids to start the conversation.
Jason Harlen, MA, CADC
CEO, WVADS, Inc.
Help Your Child Improve Their Self-Esteem
By creating a home environment that emphasizes respect and dignity for family members, you’re on the right track. However, helping your child improve their self-esteem will take some special work. Help your child identify those things about them that are special and continue to emotionally support them.
Don’t Be Afraid To Express Feelings/Emotions
Nurturing families openly express how they feel to all family members. There are no hidden agendas and family members are encouraged to express their emotions. Far too many children come from home environments which teach them the 3 Don’ts; Don’t Feel, Don’t Talk, and Don’t Trust.
Celebrate Growth of All Family Members
It is important to recognize achievements within a family unit, however large or small they might be. Family members must be reassured, reinforced, and strengthened through recognition of their work. Do not be intimidated by the strides or achievements of any one family member.
Person Is More Important Than The Performance
Don’t make the mistake of applauding the performance more than the person. It is not important how well our son or daughter performs in Little League, Softball, Mini-Football, etc. What’s more important is the value of the lessons they garner from competition, socialization, and interaction with their peers. The score is meaningless. If you don’t believe me, then try to recall the score of the last 3 Super Bowls or World Series.
Create A Tension Free Atmosphere In Your Home
Some youngsters have told me that going home is not a welcome thought. As one child told me, “You can cut the tension in our home with a machete.” Remember, you have the responsibility to create an environment that is conducive to a good healthy upbringing and one that is free of tension.
Plan Healthy Family Activities
A picnic in the woods, bowling, skiing, trips to the shore, movies, board games, viewing a home video, attending ballgames, playing cards, attending a religious service, etc. are all healthy family activities. Do your best to insure that all members of your family have a steady diet of these.
My definition of spirituality is belief in and respect for a Higher Power, respect and dignity for others, appreciation for environment and property of others, acceptance of differences in people, and fair and just treatment of all. Work diligently to insure that these messages are being transmitted in your home.
Teach Your Children
Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss your children no matter what age. Your children need this attention even though they may pull away from you when you reach out to them. Don’t be discouraged by this. There’s nothing like a warm embrace from a loving human being. It sends a loud message of love.
Tell Your Children You Love Them
It is important to verbally tell your children that you love them. You’d be surprised at how many parents have trouble telling their children this. Remember, you need to do this often.
All Subjects Open For Discussion
As a parent, you must keep an open mind and encourage discussions on all subjects, including those that you deem sensitive in nature. If you don’t address sensitive topics with your child, then who will? I tell my son, “I don’t care what’s on your mind, I would like to discuss it with you.” All subjects are open for discussion.
Provide Your Children With Guidelines For Living
Children need to be guided and directed. The rules should not be rigid or authoritative, but instead, “Guidelines For Living.” An example is:
- All members of this family will treat each other with dignity and respect.
- Expression of feelings and emotions is encouraged, however, vulgar expressions and language will not be tolerated.
- It is against the law and against the rules of this house for children to use drugs and alcohol.
- Daily chores will be performed by all members of the household and will be assigned equally.
- You are expected to identify peer groups which are healthy since choice of one’s friends is critically important.
Help Your Children To Become Goal-Oriented
Help your child establish short- and long-term goals in their life and define objectives in which to achieve these goals. These lessons will be invaluable. Please don’t assume that your child will automatically know how to do this.
Help With Decision – Making and Establishment of Priorities
Ask your child to tell you the process he/she uses to make decisions and they will look at you funny. We need to explain the art of decision-making utilizing assets vs. liabilities. Children need to understand that decisions must be made from a standpoint of logic and sound reasoning and you can help. Additionally, they must be guided to learn the appreciation of establishing priorities in their life and the importance of insuring that they don’t deviate from them.
Help Your Child Develop A Strong Value System
Values are expectations of behavior that are determined by principles and standards. You need to help your child gain an appreciation of developing a value system.
Helping your child to identify options and alternatives when faced with a difficult situation is important. Children are impulsive human beings who are prone to think spontaneously. It is important to equip our young with valuable lessons by assisting them in identifying options when faced with difficult choices.
Set Rules About Drug and Alcohol Use
You must articulate clear rules about using drugs and alcohol. They cannot be implied, you must state them clearly and uphold your beliefs. It is important to note that children will emulate our behaviors so you have a responsibility to live your life with this in mind.
Be A Good Role Model
Whether you believe it or not, your child will mimic or copy your behavior more than any other person. What you do, how you express yourself, your personal conduct, etc. must be that of a role model since, most assuredly, your children will copy it.