The Guardian, a New York newspaper, ran an article entitled, “How new words are born.” It was reported that “around 5,400 new words are created every year; it’s only the 1,000 or so deemed to be in sufficiently widespread use that make it into print.” Seeing these large numbers makes my head spin in disbelief. Then, I spend some time around a group of creative teenagers and I begin to understand where a few of these 5,400 words come from.
With new words entering our vocabulary daily, and over 1,000,000 words in the English language already, it’s no wonder that communication is an issue in our society. It plays into parenting as well. Parents struggle with keeping the lines of communication open with their children. As children get older, conversations can become less frequent and less meaningful. One parent said, “As my son got older we spent less time together. Our conversations were shallow and we just drifted apart.” When the communication lines are in disrepair, do not lose hope. Instead, be intentional and strategic with your conversations. The following three levels of conversation, adapted from the book The DNA of D6 by Ron Hunter, provide practical ways to engage in meaningful conversations with the children in your home.
- Shoreline conversations – level one
The shoreline is where you build sand castles and have light conversations about everyday life. Subjects like school, current events, household chores, sports, friends, etc.. However, there is a warning with this level. When parents spend the majority of their conversations on the shoreline, this can be perceived as nagging. Even though level one conversations do little in building relationships, they are needed to transition to level two conversations.
- Shallow-water conversations – level two
Shallow-water conversations are designed to spark the free exchange of ideas. Discussions of faith, culture and personal philosophy should occur frequently in a home. As children get older, they need to have a safe place to express their thoughts and dreams. Parents should allow plenty of room for questions and doubt. When children know they have a welcoming environment where they can speak freely, they feel loved, valued and respected. These conversations may take a great deal of work but these discussions can give parents a great perspective on the issues their children are facing.
- Deep-water conversations – level three
Deep-water conversations flow well when parents are having regular and meaningful shoreline and shallow-water conversations. Level three communication deals with a child’s fears, their feelings, whom they care about and what they love. Simple questions can open the door to deeper conversations and show that you care about their heart. Ask them questions such as, “You seem angry, hurt, sad or disappointed. Would you like to talk about it?” Or, “You have a big decision to make, how can I pray for you?” These types of questions can help parents become firmly knit together with their children.
Communicating on all three levels will demonstrate your love, interest and concern for your children. Be intentional and spend significant time with your children on levels one and two. Then, when the Lord gives you opportunity, your talks will be able to naturally flow into level three conversations.