The way you communicate with your son as he ages will naturally change. When he’s a little kid, you might spend your time playing with his toys, rough and tumble play or reading together. But as he gets older, you’ll find yourselves starting to have deeper conversations, about school, friendships, sport, or things going on in his life.
The important thing is to keep those lines of communication open, no matter how old he gets. That way, you can keep tabs on how he’s feeling emotionally and mentally, who his friends are, how he’s doing in school, and when he needs help with something.
One tip that can be especially helpful for boys is to talk side by side. This could mean going for a walk together, having a conversation in the car while you’re driving, or shooting hoops together. Boys tend to feel more comfortable opening up when there’s less direct eye contact, especially if you’re discussing a tough or awkward subject. So, finding an activity to do together while you chat can be a great way to keep those conversations flowing.
- Build a comfort zone. Create a safe space for chats, this could be around the dinner table or watching sport together.
- Make the first move. Don’t wait for your son.
- Listen, without judgement. Don’t solve, criticise or judge. Show you are listening and empathise by saying something like “I understand how you feel”.
- Say “I love you”. Don’t use empty, repetitive words – think of different ways to tell them you love them when they don’t suspect it. Write how you feel in cards, notes, emails and text messages.
- Affirm your son when he opens up. Give him a hug – show that you care. Ask for his opinion – show him his opinions are valid.
- Ask curious open questions about their lives. Seek their opinion on something. Ask questions about their friends/music/interests.
- Express your emotions. Share your stories and experiences – honestly.
- Stay calm if conflict arises. When they do tell you about issues – express your feelings respectfully. Don’t ‘explode’, instead, listen carefully.