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Honest answers to life questions from a Biblical perspective

What is "No Filter?"

by Sweet T

Dear Sweet T,

I am a happy mom to 3 wonderful kids, one boy and two girls. My desire is that they are always able to talk to me about anything. I know that this might not always be the case, but I want to start out strong. Do you have some tips on how I can keep the lines of communication open with them starting with a good foundation?

Dear Mama,

What a wonderful question and a wonderful goal. In today's world of technology, when most kids have their faces on a screen, it is of utmost importance to have real communication with them. The thing about your kids (and kids in general) is that they are all different and they change over time. Their needs and means of communication also change. What works with one will never work with the others and may not even work with them later on. Here is a list, of tips and ideas to keep your kids talking. Without knowing each of your children personally, I will give you the ideas and you can use what works and share with others if you think they might benefit.

First of all, be available. With a full schedule, multiple kids and a husband, I know that finding time can be challenging. But remember, the opportunity you have with these kids is temporary, so do everything and anything to be present and available when your kids want to talk. One of my daughters is a night owl and only wants to have in-depth conversations after 10 pm. Even though all I can think about is hitting the sheets sometimes, I make it rule to at least sit down and give her a few minutes. Even those few minutes demonstrate to her that I care and I think that what she has to say is important. Find out when your kids are most in the mood to communicate and MAKE it a priority to give at least a few minutes. I know that there will be other things calling your attention, but trust me, pretty much everything else can wait.

Next, find out how your kid communicates. One of my kids is a natural talker. It runs on my husband's side. The other is a natural writer. If you have a talker, the main thing is to not shut them down. If you slow the amount of talking down, you are going to miss a lot. Interwoven in the words of frivolous conversation are heavy topics that you won't want to miss. For my writer, a friend gave a great idea on how to keep her opening up. I went out and purchased an inexpensive journal with a lock and wrote the first entry… “My darling, you are a wonderful writer and I love to read your thoughts and feelings. Here is a journal just for you and me. Everything that is in here will stay between you and me. You can share whatever you want, ask whatever you want and I will respond and answer whatever you'd like.” That little journal holds priceless communication from my girl. And it gave me a chance to answer some questions of hers that might have been too embarrassing or awkward for her to ask me out loud.

Be open with them. Communication is a two-way street as we all know and with your kid is no different. If you want your children to open up to you, be prepared to open up to them. Now trust me, you don't need to tell them every last detail of the Summer of '99 or every boyfriend you've ever had, but do share some personal things that pertain to the conversation. Tell them some of the ways you struggled when you were their age, some problems you had with friendships or bullies, what you did when you got a bad grade in school, or what it was like when you had to confess something difficult to your parents. The key here is for them to know that you aren't perfect and have never done everything just right. Your kids will value your honesty and openness and even get a kick out of some of your stories!

Be trustworthy and private. If your kid tells you something in confidence, keep it that way. The quickest way to shut down communication is to show that you can't be trusted. If something is told to you in confidence that you feel needs to be shared or addressed with others, let your child know. Sit down and explain why it needs to be shared and with whom specifically. If there is a serious problem or issue that needs professional intervention, don't hesitate to get help.

Finally, don't “solution” them every time they talk. Kids of every age are constantly learning, growing, changing, feeling their way, and experimenting with the way they interact with their world and the people in it. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to, a sounding board or a shoulder. They have lots of feelings, emotions, and possibly hormones at work and are trying to navigate through them. Sometimes this is done for them just by getting things off of their chest. You need only to sit and listen. Even as an adult, I find myself closing myself off from people who use every opportunity to tell me what to do rather than just listen to what I have to say. One thing I have found that works really well, is to simply ask the question. After my kid spills all of the thoughts and feelings about the situation and there is a pause, I simply ask, “Do you just need me to listen, or do you want me to tell you what I think?” That has worked wonders and I can't honestly tell you if the end result is more “just listen” or “what do you think.” But honestly, does it matter as long as they keep on coming?

Communication is a process. Take the time. Start early. You won't regret it!


Sweet T