My oldest daughter is almost 14. Just reading those words after typing them blows my mind. It seems like she was just a baby yesterday. I was always told that time flies and they’ll be grown up before you know it and sure enough, they were right. She’ll be a freshman next year and we are finishing up on a lot of life lessons. She’ll need to spread her wings soon and I want to do my best to make sure she is ready to soar.
A few weeks ago she and I had to go out of town for a soccer tournament. This was her first time playing at the club level and I was excited for her. I remember the first time I played on a club team. I remember the nerves and the worry and how the fast the game became. I wanted to go over all of that with her but I didn’t want to add any anxiety that she may already have. We had a 4 hour drive ahead of us and I decided it would be best to just ask questions and listen. So that’s what I did.
We had one of the best conversations ever. We spent almost those whole 4 hours (each way) talking about everything under the sun and nothing in particular. It was a chance for me to find out more about her and to reenforce the idea that I respect her opinions and I want her to think for herself. I’ve looked forward to these types of conversations for years. I used to enjoy similar ones with my mom when I was a kid. I just always assumed I would have the same with my kids. So far it’s worked out as planned but that’s the key. This was planned. You can’t just hope to have good communication with your kids. You have to do it intentionally.
I recently went through a short series on communication in my podcast (click here to check it out) and one of the things we discuss is that you have to have purpose when you communicate. It has to be intentional. With the goal of open communication with my kids in mind, I’ve made sure to tell them that I will love them no mater what for as long as I can remember. I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my love will always be there for them. Secondly, I’ve always told them that they can come to me with anything and I will be here for them. I told them good or bad they can come to me and I will help them get through it. We might celebrate together or we might walk with them through hard times but I’ll be there.
These two things have been shared with my kids since they were barely able to talk. It’s something that I want them to have complete and total confidence in. I don’t want them to ever question those two things. It has become the foundation for our communication. Without it the 4 hour car ride probably would have been a lot different. It probably would have been very quiet with top 40 playing on the radio.
For those of you with young kids please, please, please be purposeful with your kids to lay a foundation of trust and communication with them. It will pay huge dividends when they are older. When they get ready to spread their wings and have questions you want them to know there is an open door, without judgement, for them to walk through where they can share their heart with you.
For those of you with older kids or even teens or adults don’t give up hope. One of the most powerful things you can tell them is “I love you”. You can tell them they are important and just watch their eyes light up. Just because you may not have started earlier doesn’t mean you can’t still lay a foundation. You just might have to break down some bad habits in the process but it can still be done. Be consistent and be patient. The day will come when your kid says, “Dad, can I talk to you?”
Those golden words are some of the best I’ve ever heard.