I hope you enjoy this month’s contribution to Hallmark’s “Life Is A Special Occasion” campaign! (I’m sure you will. Trust me.)
“Keep the lines of communication open” is one of my favorite pieces of advice to dole out when people ask me how to survive once their kids become teenagers. I have always tried to do that with my own kids and, although making the time to talk with your kids (and listen too, because you know, TWO WAY and all that kind of stuff) isn’t an iron-clad guarantee that everything’s gonna be alright, it’s definitely one of the best ways to set a strong foundation that can help fix things right up if problems should ever rear their ugly heads.
These days, everyone is so busy and it can be hard to find uninterrupted time to hear what’s going on in your kids’ worlds. That’s why we, in my family, try to have dinner together as much as possible. Casually chatting over a nice meal is fun, and you can learn so much about each other just by putting all the craziness of the day aside for twenty to thirty minutes and focusing on each other. It doesn’t always look like it does in the movies or on Norman Rockwell paintings, though…
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes when I think I’m really listening to my kids, I don’t even let them finish their sentences. One reason I have found that I do this is because I’m anticipating what they’re going to say and fill in the blanks for them, which can be acceptable when you’re dating your future husband (so romantic!) or having fun with a sister (or girlfriends who are like sisters) but not as much of a good idea when you’re trying to encourage your kids to talk to you. Another reason is just because, honestly, I get impatient and forget my manners, interrupting them to move on to what I have to say. Everyone makes mistakes. The thing is, if you constantly interrupt your kids, they aren’t going to want to say as much in the first place.
My kids, especially my younger son J, nipped my problem in the bud. Over the years when I’ve interrupted them I’ve gotten lots of looks like this one:
It’s a little like being slapped on the hands, with added mental wincing.
When J became a tween, he combined that stink-eye with words. “Would you please not interrupt me????”
Over time that kind of reaction made me think before opening my big mouth.
Though I’m not perfect by any means, he has trained me well and I have been rewarded. We have some great talks these days, J and I, and although he doesn’t share every single thing under the sun with me (totally normal for a teenager), I appreciate our conversations so much, especially the ones in which he shares dreams of his future, his fears, and his theories on how things work. As his mom, I consider it a huge gift that he feels comfortable talking to me, and I like to think that he enjoys our conversations as much as I do.
What about you? Do you talk WITH your kids rather than AT them? If you need a conversation starter, might I suggest Hallmark’s personalized greeting cards? They are as unique as you (and your kids) are, and if you order them online Hallmark will stamp, address, and mail them for you on the date of your choosing. I don’t know any kid out there who doesn’t like mail, and you might get the best surprise of all in return: a nice, long chat with your kid!
Disclosure: I am BEYOND thrilled to be partnering with Hallmark on their “Life Is A Special Occasion” campaign for 2012. As a Hallmark LIASO blogger I am being compensated to write about every day moments of all sizes, family traditions, the relationships I cherish the most, and much more. All words, opinions, and photos are mine. Thanks so much to the folks at Hallmark for selecting me for this campaign: it’s an honor for me to be a part of it. Oh, and by the way, you can sign up for special offers and new product information from Hallmark by clicking here (and why wouldn’t you, really?).