How to parent a homeless child- Trust was the first in a series of blogs that I am writing to help parents who have suffered economically to build relationships with their children. This blog affectionately titled The Parent Lounge when we are talking about children and how to help them grow, is a personal passion of mine. I believe that children must be taught or they will not know what they do not know.
In the last blog about parenting a homeless child, which could easily be applicable to any child we talked about trust. Today our topic is communication.
Communication is a dialogue between two or more people. Many times this is the very thing that prevents people from being able to have successful healthy, super-rich relationships.
When we talk about the parent-child relationship, it is delicate. You really do have be the parent-friend-sister-girlfriend. I am a friend to my child but neither of us acknowledge this. Let me explain. In no way is my child able to communicate with slang language the way that she does her friends. She does not call me “girlfriend” or any of the nicknames that she calls them, however we do talk as friends do.
As she gets older I realize how important it is for her to know what is going on with me, and although I sensor as a parent, my business, I am conscious to include her in the affairs of my life. She notices if someone calls at a certain time. People who are around you, especially your children, husband/wife etc.. know your patterns. They know the pattern in which you talk to your friends.
They know when a relationship is strained, and they know when someone has been dismissed. They know when a guy is interested in you, and they know when you are sad or happy, or mad, scared, confused etc… You and your child(ren) are communicating whether you like it or not.
Your body language, your breathing, your patterns are all indications of what they can ask you for at a given moment. They do not just know these things so that they can ask you for something. You have developed patterns of behavior and your children know them, and they know them well.
You may not tell your six-year-old that you were evicted but you may tell them that you are moving, and then prepare them for the way. Tell them a story of what that may look like. We will visit grandma’s or pop pop’s house for a little while or we are going to stay with your friend so and so (whose parents are your friends). However, for a thirteen year old, you need to tell them the truth. They may not pay bills but they are not ignorant that you do.
Having suffered from being homeless, I still have some established and wealthy friends. One couple in particular whom I love very much, I know that they have certain feelings about my parenting because of my financial lack. However, they both work very long days, and their child doesn’t talk to them about what’s going on with her. The child is communicating with the internet. She has everything you could want in a teenage room. She has custom painting, huge screen television, computer, internet, blackberry, walk in closet etc…
I think that it’s wonderful if that is what works for you, but this blog is about communication. My daughter is not allowed to have her cellphone past ten p.m. Sometimes I am a little relaxed on that rule if I am right next to her. When she had her own room she was not allowed to have internet or cable in her room.
In order to keep open communication with your children it is really important to remain the leader and person of influence in their lives. Children who have all the technology see things before they should, become engaged in conversations and ideals that they may not be mature enough to participate in.
One of the ways that I keep open communication with my daughter is by limiting communication with everything else. When children become dependant on technology, they do not seek your guidance and can often be mislead into dangerous or fragile situations.
One of the things that I found a little difficult was to have the sex talk. I prayed and asked God to send us to a church that would have the right kind of programs that would grow her up as a mature young woman of God. I wanted her to have access to information that would help her to preserve her value and her temple. Sure enough, we joined a church that offered sex education classes called I’m worth waiting for, and talk to the hand.
At ten years old, I thought that was too young to put her into this class but, you know what, it prepared her for the conversations at school about homosexuality, and different types of sexual intercourse.
I talked to her in-depth about each class she attended and I was the one to answer her questions, not her peers.
A few tips for communicating with your child at any age:
- Talk- be prepared to talk a lot, without yelling or having expectations that they understand the first time. Most adults don’t get things on the first time, why would your child? They may be talking to you and someone else who may confuse their thoughts about a matter. If they come back to you, they may need to hear your admonishment again.
- Listen- Without interrupting, typing on your computer, answering business phone calls, or anything else. Give them the time that they need to express whatever they want.
- Respond- After you have both talked, and listened the conversation usually enters a relaxed dialogue environment. Here is where you ask questions that they really want to answer anyway because they don’t want to hold it in. But as a parent, you have to speak with love. Let your response be based on the most positive answer that you can give them but do not offend, ridicule or be mean to them. They are coming to you to learn how to live, so teach them.
- Become a Teacher– One of the biggest elements of parenting is that we are all called to be teachers. Teachers are completely selfless, and just as their are teachers in classrooms who do not care about certain children in the class, such are some of you about your own children. It is important that you understand that you are you child’s first and longest standing teacher.
Just as you build trust within your relationships, you also have to build communication. You do that by having constant healthy communication. I am going to add something here. It is really important that you have a healthy relationship with yourself. You can’t teach what you don’t learn and when you become a parent, you make an instant decision to become a student so that what you learn you can teach.