Say it isn’t so…only 26 % of youth surveyed throughout the United States said they have Positive Family Communication, Support Asset #2 of the 40 Developmental Assets, the qualities, experiences, and relationships that help young people grow up healthy, caring and responsible. 74% of youth surveyed did not feel they could go to their parents/guardians for advice and support, did not have frequent in-depth conversations with their parents/guardians about a variety of topics –including serious issues and did not feel their parents/guardians were approachable and available when they wanted to talk.
The all too familiar conversation may look something like this: your child’s upset, you’re tired, and the conversation heats into an argument which ends when a door slams then silence. What if we were able to create an atmosphere of open communication within our homes – would the doors open instead of slam?
There are a variety of invisible closed doors all around us. Doors we build when we are preoccupied and don’t pay enough attention to our children, doors we create when we jump to conclusions before our child says anything, and doors we create when we criticize youth for what they tell us. With the building of each of these invisible doors youth begin to feel fearful of sharing or resentful of the reaction. Eventually youth back away from having conversations all together.
Real open door family communication means having an open mind, attitude and heart, listening to understand not to advocate your position, and being available when your children need you – and when they don’t. Though it can be challenging to develop the skills, being available for frequent, in-depth conversations is an important role we play in our children’s lives – from the time they learn to talk all the way into adulthood.
According to Dr. Daniel G. Bagboy, “When we communicate, we are telling others who we are, and we are asking others who they are.” Bagby suggests in conversations with your child reveal yourself by honestly telling them your thoughts, ideas, goals and feelings, jump in and begin the conversation-don’t wait for them to talk first, be responsible by taking control of your thoughts, feelings and actions, don’t blame or shame others for your behavior, take responsibility for your actions and be human by sharing your weaknesses in addition to your strengths to develop trust and closeness.
According to the Search Institute, this type of open door, Positive Family Communication, is essential for the healthy development of children and youth. So whether your home is one of the 26% who already has an open door or you are among the many who hear the door shut too many times, it is never too late to be intentional in turning the handle and walking into a new world of communication for yourself and your child.
“Want to know more about the 40 Developmental Assets and ideas for helping young people build them? Visit www.search-institute.org/assets.