I recall watching this Cosby Show episode; Bill and his wife Claire wondered if their children were willing to share their problem. They sit down with their children to discuss the issue, and their son admits that if he were encountering a situation that made him scared, he would go to a friend first. It perplexed Bill as to why his son would go to a friend ahead of him when in trouble.
It might just be a show, but considering the number of times my parents have assured me that I can talk to them about anything, I am pretty sure that many parents are concerned about how open their children are to them and wonder how they can get their children to confide in them especially when in trouble.
I am under 25 years old and have no children, and hence no experience in attempting to get children to confide in me. However, what I do have is the memory of what my own parents did, as well as some of the things that I, as a child, believe that parents could do to encourage their children to confide in them.
Creating a safe environment
It might go without saying, but a safe environment does not come without building. For as long as I can remember, home has always been the place I’ve felt safest at. I may not always have known why, but reflecting now, I think it boiled down to a few vital things.
Invest the time
A big contributor to feelings of safety is familiarity. Personally, I will always be grateful for my mother’s decision to stop working which allowed her to spend plenty of time with me. It might be more difficult for working parents to make the time, but it is not impossible. My father has a ‘heavy’ job, but has always been intentional about making time to spend with me. Every birthday, we have a one-on-one dinner, and every school holidays we used to take a family holiday together, where he left all work at home, making sure that the time spent was quality time.
One practical thing that can be done is to set aside a time for children to share with parents. I know of one family that makes sure that once a week the family gathers to share one thing that they tried but failed at over the preceding week. It is important for parents to take the lead in such activities as children will feel safer sharing if they see their parents doing the same. Such practices should be built into routines which will breed familiarity and hence a safe environment, paving the way for children to share other things on their own accord.
Trust can be earned, love must be a constant
I still remember my dad telling me after I disobeyed him once that I must earn back his trust. At the same time, and in many other situations, he affirmed his love for me. My parents’ consistent reminders of their love for me decoupled their love for me from my own actions. This gave me the confidence to share problems with my parents with the knowledge that though I may lose trust, I will never lose their love. Unfortunately, many times children perceive that the love they receive is tied to their actions or achievements. This link is formed not only by parents not reminding them of their love when the child has done something wrong, but also by parents only expressing their love for their child exclusively when they so something good. While this might promote good behaviour, it will also cause the child to hide from their parents the things that would displease them.
Editor’s note: Keep a lookout for Part 2 where he shares the process of listening and the potential pitfalls from his perspective as a son! If you want to know when it has been released, join us on Facebook or follow our blog. See you then 🙂
Abraham is an undergraduate who dreamed of playing professional football when he was 5 (and actually still does). While his love for football occupies a large part of his heart, the remaining portion is shared between his passion for photographing the wonders of God’s creation and love for his family.