Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting To Know Your Children This Summer

Summer is the time that many of us remember why we love living in Maine. The weather is beautiful and there are all kinds of interesting things to do regardless of your interests. Its also the time that children are at home and don't have the time pressures and responsibilities that they carry during the school year.This gives us all a great opportunity to spend time with the children in our lives, to gain understanding of who they are, what they like to do, how they think about things, what their hopes and dreams are, what's fun for them and so forth.

A good, active relationship with a loving, respectful adult is the best protection that a child can carry as they move toward greater independence. Secure and open relationships with a loving adult lower the chances of a child getting involved in smoking, substance abuse, and other high risk behaviors. These relationships can provide a buffer against feelings of depression and hopelessness. They increase children's self-esteem and their sense of competence in the world. It does, however take time, some planning, a bit of negotiation, and a lot of mindfulness to make sure that your relationship is working for the child.

Some suggestions that might be helpful are:

Spend time with your child doing something that he or she enjoys. While you do this, make all of your comments positive. Be curious about what they are doing and show your appreciation. Examples might be, "That's really interesting. Tell me about it," or "that's great, what a lot of work you've put into this," or just "wow, that's wonderful."Your goals in this are first, to have fun with your child, but secondly to help your child see you as someone who appreciates them and is fun to be around.

Do things side by side with your child. The research is pretty clear that children are most likely to talk to you about things that are important to them when you are both facing in the same direction, not directly at one another and when there is something else to focus on rather than simply "having a talk." Things like doing dishes together, preparing a meal, riding in the car, and doing chores together offer opportunities to really get to know your child and for them to get to know you, too. Remember to keep it positive, be curious rather than critical, and show appreciation for who they are and what they are trying to become.

These kinds of informal and positive chats set the stage to be able to have more difficult conversations when they are necessary. Your child knows that you love and respect them. They will understand that what you are trying to talk with them about is not just "more nagging."

There is a myth that its quality not quantity. In reality, both are important and summer provides a great opportunity for strengthening these connections.