Chit-Chat: A Surefire Way to Connect and Stay Connected to Your Kids
Do your kids sometimes bend your ear about a subject in which you really have no interest? I’m probably getting a yes from everyone.
- Your son gives you a blow-by-blow description of the video game he’s playing.
- Your middle schooler animatedly relates a “he said, she said” conversation that took place at school, with all the attending dramatics.
- You get a long drawn out review of all of the baseball cards in your son’s current collection.
These conversations are usually one-sided, and are often difficult to attend to, especially when you’re busy or have a list of things you need to do.
Even so, these conversations are as important as any you will have with your kids from the time they can talk until they’re adults and after.
I call these conversations “Chit-Chat.
Chit-Chat is a conversation that has no particular goal other than to talk and be heard.
How do you do it?
Chit-Chat is really fairly simple. It requires that you allow your child or teen to chatter to you, while you ask enough questions, or make enough comments to let her know you are listening and are interested.
You may not be all that interested in the subject, but you can be interested in the fact that your child is enjoying being heard, and enjoying explaining to you or chattering to you about a subject that is of great interest to him.
You show that by actually hearing what is said and asking for clarification along the way, or commenting on the subject, or reflecting back your child’s feelings about the subject.
This does not require a lot of talking on your part. You are simply reflecting things back here and there, or asking a question that is non-intrusive.
What are the benefits?
Have you ever had someone really listen to you talk about something that is of interest or importance to you, even if it’s not of great interest to them? How about talking about your kids to people who don’t have kids? Or discussing something that happened at your job?
My husband likes to read football stats to me. I do have some interest in this subject, but not nearly as much as he does. The point is that it gives him pleasure to tell me about it, and it is a connective experience for both of us.
This holds true with your kids too. When you allow chatter, and you maintain a level of interest and engagement that is felt, your child will feel connected to you. This is a special kind of connection, because it is given out of love without anything required in return.
For your child, Chit-Chat provides a feeling of unconditional love, being accepted, and being valued. It creates intimacy.
A real benefit is that when you create an intimate and connected relationship with your child, you will have a much easier time with behavior issues. Instead of your relationship getting hijacked by constant conflicts and power struggles, you will get more cooperation. Your child will also experience more calmness and will feel greater emotional security. It’s a win-win.
Rules of the Game
It’s not really hard to engage in “Chit-Chat,” but there are some basic rules that come in handy.
- Avoid getting into any type of corrective or disciplinary conversation during Chit-Chat. That will take away all of the positive effects gained. If your child is telling you something that you think needs some deeper conversation, see if you can put that off until another time.
- Chit-Chat is also not a time for advice. It’s really just for listening and showing interest. There’s nothing complicated about it. Your goal is to give your child your ear to chat about whatever he’s interested in at the moment, and to make him feel heard. That’s it. Don’t take over the conversation.
- If the conversation moves to a more serious subject, then you can engage in that but only if it doesn’t entail criticism. Sometimes a child, and especially a teen, will start out with something more benign in a Chit-Chat session and move into deeper feelings or struggles that require some help from you. By all means give that help, but in a supportive manner.
- No technology! Chit-Chat is not for texting, emailing, or any other technological mode of communication. The point is not only the talking and being heard part, but also eye contact, and physical closeness that allows your child to feel your presence with all of his senses.
When’s the best time?
Chit-Chat can take place anytime that you can lend an ear. It’s fine to engage in it while your doing something else as long as you can attend enough so that your child feels you are listening.
A favorite Chit-Chat time in my family growing up was while my Mom was in the kitchen cooking. There was a counter with stools separating the kitchen from the family room with a see through, and any of us could sit on one of the stools and chat with her while she cooked. She was quite good at giving just the right amount of response so that we knew she was listening and was interested, and we got the full effect of feeling nurtured by her interest while smelling the aroma of dinner cooking. Very soothing and intimate.
These kinds of experiences can become rituals that stay with your kids long after they are grown. And, hopefully they will pass these rituals down to their kids.
Now for some Chit-Chat from you! Do you have any additional things you have used to create a more intimate and connected relationship with your kids? What kinds of subjects do your kids like to chatter about?