SCEGGS DARLINGHURST

In This Together

“There is a reason we were given two ears and one mouth..."

Whatever the age of your daughter, keeping the lines of communication open is so important. Whether you have a quiet and shy child, an outgoing pre-teen or a moody teenager who is monosyllabic at best, here are some ideas to help.

Firstly, three tips:

 
Tip #1:               
Be curious... about her life, her opinions, her ideas.
  Tip #2:    Don’t push it. If the time isn’t right and she doesn’t want to chat or tell you what’s worrying her, let it be...

  Tip #3: Let her know you are always there to listen. That you care about her, that you are easy going and accepting, that you won’t be judgemental...

Keep trying to find the right sort of questions which will encourage your daughter to talk. It might be music or sport, or something else she is particularly passionate about. And do persevere... but gently. She will see that you are open to talk, that you care, that you are interested, even if it doesn’t prompt a deep conversation at the time. You will get there!

Don’t ask closed questions – where the answer is can be given in one or two words. Don’t ask probing questions – it shouldn’t feel like an inquisition. Ask curious questions – about what she thinks, what she feels, what she is worried about. The aim is to get to know your daughter better – and to show you are interested in her, her life, and her views on the world.

You might try to schedule specific times you could start a conversation – over the dinner table, Sunday morning breakfast, or Friday night movies and pizzas. Regular, predictable and comfortable family routines encourage good conversations. But it doesn’t really matter how you start a conversation – what topic you choose. Be alive to what is happening around you, and what your daughter is interested in, thinking, or doing.

Now sometimes it is really tempting to tell her all about what you think! The moment she tells you about a problem or issue she is worried about, you know what she should do. (And of course, you are probably right – you are so much more experienced than her). Trying to resist the urge to solve her problems, to be bombastic or opinionated, but gently encouraging her to find the solution to problems herself, to work out for herself what she thinks ir right or important – it is a far better process in the long-run.

Learn to be quiet! I started by noting that we have two ears and one mouth. Listen more than you talk. Be comfortable with silence. It might take her time to process what she is feeling or wants to say. It might be taking her time to build courage to say something. Or she might be just thinking... Give her the time and space to think, and, just maybe, she might talk.

If you try to start a conversation, and she isn’t responsive, don’t push it. Just shrug and walk away, or drop the subject, or go back to something else you were doing. The time has to be right for her. Don’t push it – if she isn’t ready, let it go. End with something like “I am always ready to listen, when you are ready to talk something over...? Remember – I am always on your side... I always have your back.

The most important thing you can do is to tell her, with genuine love, softness and deep caring in your tone, that you love her. Every child needs to know that they are loved – even when their behaviour is not at all lovable. She needs to know that you love her, even when her behaviour is bad, even when she knows herself that she is being unreasonable and difficult. Smile at her and tell her you love her, write her a card or send a text, find lots of different ways to tell her you love her. Let her know that you are always there to talk or help if she needs it – that you will always be there for her, that you “have her back”.

Find every opportunity to notice good behaviour – and praise her explicitly for it so that she knows you know! Be as specific as possible. “I noticed the way you particularly got ready tonight for school tomorrow – with your bag packed up and ready to go. That is so good! I really admire your commitment to start the day well by being prepared the night before. I am so proud of you for doing that without being asked!”

If you ask a question to which the answer is either yes or no, you will probably just get that – and not a lot else. Practise asking questions like: “What do you think about...?” Or “Why do you think she did that...?” Or “How does that make you feel?” Or “What would you do differently next time?”

None of the advice above (or any other strategy you try) is going to make your communication with your daughter always constructive and friendly. But it might help, in some small ways. And remember – it will get easier, over time. I know this will be the case, without a doubt, even if it doesn’t feel like this is possible, right now. So hang in there!

 

Jenny Allum
Head of School