Fatherhood is one of those things in life that no one can fully be prepared for. It is no less than a hectic full-time job one that’s full of surprises, love, and challenges! While the challenges of balancing work and parenthood have (thankfully!) begun to enter mainstream conversations, there is a crucial aspect of fatherhood that is largely missed out communication with kids.
Most Indian fathers have a hard time talking with their kids. They feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings with their children or feel ill-equipped to do so. Most of us can remember our dad’s pat on the back, congratulating us on our achievements, but how many of us, in the course of our Indian upbringing, can remember dad saying “I love you”?
Societal norms and preconceived notions of masculinity are a major reason for this. If you are a father struggling with effective communication with your young child, this article is for you.
Here are a few ways you can improve your communication with your young children and strengthen your bond:
Be an active listener
Being an active listener involves being fully engaged in the conversation with your child and also showing, through verbal and non-verbal cues, that you are, indeed, listening to them.
When your child tells you something, nodding affirmatively and smiling shows your interest and attentiveness. You should ask them questions like “what,” “why,” and “how,” to show that you are listening intently to what they have to say. You can also get down to their eye level to make them feel more comfortable while talking to you.
Practice reflective listening
Acting like a mirror to your child’s thoughts, by rephrasing what they are saying, makes them feel heard and allows them to express without any fear of judgment.
Help your kids explain their feelings
Kids may not have the vocabulary to clearly express their feelings, but it is important for their emotional intelligence that they name their feelings. You can help them to do so.
Whenever your child expresses their feelings, verbally or through other cues such as expressions and gestures, listen with empathy and try to understand their point of view.
Help them name their feelings, for example, by saying, “So, are you sad that Raj did not share cookies with you,” when they narrate the incident to you.
Let them know that there are so many emotions that they could feel at any given point, happy, sad, angry, upset, disappointed, excited!
Have fun together
Communication with kids does not always have to be in a serious tone. Especially when kids are growing up, you should make room for lighthearted conversations with your little one.
Joke around with them, take an interest in their hobbies, and say something positive about their interests.
This is a great way to strengthen your relationship with your child.
Criticize their behaviour, not their personality
Direct your comments at a specific behaviour rather than your child’s personality.
Eg. Instead of saying “I don’t like that YOU are so messy,” say “I don’t like it when you don’t put your toys back in place.”
This helps them improve their behaviour and assures them that you love them regardless of their mistakes.
While parenting has its fair share of difficulties, good communication with kids can help ease it.
Even if it feels overwhelming to try out the communication strategies mentioned above, with practice, they will become second nature to you. They will help you to connect better with your little ones, and make your fatherhood journey special.