Not sure about you, but there have been plenty of times as a parent when I felt sure my ears would drop off. I mean, kids talk sooo much. And typically not in an inside voice. Amplify that when they turn into teens. They have so much to say. All. The. Time.
So how can we stay sane in the house of chatter? Here are some ideas from a parent’s perspective, particularly when your kids have had different and traumatic starts to life.
- Accept that your ears just may drop off, and try and enjoy as much of the conversation as possible. I love that my now teens make me laugh, and are encouraged to talk openly.
- Learn the art of tuning out when it is just background noise. And become comfortable with encouraging kids to use their “inside voice” (good luck). I told a little person the other day that I can only hear whispering… which worked for about a minute.
- Ensure your kids know they can talk with you about anything. This is especially important as they approach the teen years. Tweens and teens are exposed to so much these days and conversations about heavy topics such as self harm can take place from quite young – either through friends at school, through the internet and social media… and so you want to make sure you are one of the people able to have these conversations with them.
Do they feel comfortable to raise any question at all with you? How do you achieve that?
- Ensure listening to them is a regular occurrence
- Tell them “it doesn’t matter what you need to talk about, I care most about your safety and wellbeing… even if something is your fault, let’s talk about it. It’s not about getting in trouble.”
- Find your poker face – learn to keep your face calm when your kids take you up on telling you anything. Breathe. Remember you can come back to the topic later if you need to discuss it. But it is great if in that moment you can deliver on your offer to listen and be there for them.
- Don’t always jump in with the solution. Be a sounding board for their ideas about how they can navigate the situation and help them develop their own skills and confidence in that.
When kids have hard a trauma background, they may have really difficult topics they may not be comfortable to talk about. Telling you about things that have happened to them, concerns about identity and family background, and some of these may not be raised for many years.
How can you navigate these? In addition to your obligations to follow the appropriate reporting requirements (eg to case manager), here are some thoughts:
- You can let them know how you feel about what they have told you (eg you are really sad about what happened)
- It is good to sit with them, especially if there are no words you can say to comfort them in what you have been told
- Remind them “normal” doesn’t apply to many things. For kids with a different background, as they get older they can feel like they don’t fit in, and struggle with identity issues. Help them to navigate their thinking around identity and family structure
Ensure they know that if there are times they don’t feel they can talk with you, there are options such as Kids Helpline and other safe adults who can listen and help.
I am so aware of the immense privilege it is to now have teens who talk with me regularly and come to me when they have a problem. Time passes so quickly, so while it may feel your ears will drop off, keep listening, it is worth it!!