It takes a lot for a person to open up to another, irrespective of how close one might be. This is especially true when the relationship is that of a parent and child. In today’s age and time, things are very different given the current social fabric and pace of changes that are occurring due to prevalence of digital media where gratification OR rejection is instantaneous. This compounded with the fact that very little facetime is being spent in engaging in meaningful dialogue.
There is always good intent in every relationship; especially the ones surrounding a parent and child, yet this is the most distanced relationship when it comes to holding a heart-to-heart conversation. There are multiple factors that contribute to such a distance being created, such as:
- A parent that is steeped in experiences of the past and in most cases is unable to relate to the current circumstances of their child.
- Lack of empathy in understanding the complete picture of an issue the child is dealing with
- Rushing with suggestions and advice based on the Parent’s own frame of understanding
- Chiding and/or being accusatory based on bits of inferences made through sporadic interactions
- Lack of trust from the child toward their parent with an assumption that they don’t know any better
I am sure, many of you relate to the above and perhaps see many more factors contributing to this dysfunction.
There is an inherent right that parents expect from their children when it comes to being vulnerable; a right that seems to stem from the fact that they are the “creators”. Yet, this is the biggest stumbling block, largely due to this very expectation.
Vulnerability is a deeply personal decision for everyone. A blood relationship neither makes this an automatic privilege of the parent nor the implicit duty of the child. It is something that an individual develops based on their level of comfort in a non-judgmental manner. However much a parent expects their child to open -up, there is an element of judgement that comes in the way; albeit with some of the best intentions.
Creating an environment that nurtures honest conversations and makes it safe for a person to be vulnerable is a two-way street. Following are some aspects to consider:
As a parent:
- Show empathy and try to fully understand the situation of the child
- Listen … listen … listen
- Be non-judgmental – this is a hard one, as it is a basic instinct of the parent
- Make it safe for your child to open to you by keeping your personal opinions and prejudices away
- Be patient and wait for your child to speak their mind without rushing them
As a child:
- Trust your parent; they have the best intentions for you
- Be bold and seek time with your parent(s) in talking to them about something that is very important to you
- Don’t assume that you will be judged by your parent all the time – yes, there are instances when it might seem like it, but explore their perspective beyond their reactions.
- Be forthcoming with issues and do not hide things from your parents. Likely a situation that you may be dealing with, could easily be handled in its early stages with the right counsel
- A healthy conversation is a two-way street, as much you need to speak, it is important to listen as well
- Stay calm. Throwing tantrums and angry outbursts do not help your parent understand a situation to ascertain how they might help.
The above are just broad pointers to some steps that we can take in nurturing an environment where open and honest conversations take place. In the end, it is important for us all to recognize that vulnerability is a privilege and not an entitlement!
As always, would love to hear your thoughts, experiences and suggestions on this topic.