by Heather Freeman, click here to get all our posts.
“I wonder if my daughter is really happy? I think she is anxious and stressed, but she just won't say what's bothering her. I don't know if it's school or friends or what."
Being a young girl is tougher than ever! Times have changed, and girls today face unique challenges that are very different in nature and scope from when you and I were young.
We want to know how her day went, but we also don’t want to be perceived as being intrusive.
You’re not alone. Many moms have expressed that it would bring them peace of mind if they could connect with their daughter and offer her support even when she is gaining greater independence and control in her life.
So, how does one go about getting a girl to open up and share?
It all hinges on keeping the lines of communication open. And it works both ways. It’s easy for parents to want to jump in and fix a problem, but it’s important to give girls as much air time to vent and share as it is for parents to provide feedback and support.
Open up the lines of communication.
Opening up lines of communication and keeping those lines open begins with how we approach a conversation. Don’t start an interrogation as soon as you arrive for pickup or the moment you all walk in the front door. After being ‘on’ all day at school, some girls need a break. Asking 20 questions as soon as you pick up your girl could mean instant shut down.
Instead, spend a few minutes reconnecting with your girl by simply being present. Let her know, “Hey I missed you. I’m happy to see you.” This sends your girl the message, "hey my mom cares about me." Then she'll begin to relax and most likely open up with you.
Sometimes, between all the shuffling to and from school and activities, it's dinner time before you're back at home. And by then it’s hard to find the time to connect. This is when it helps to work some parent-girl time into you day, like right after the dinner table is cleared or 5 minutes before tuck in time to bed. Carving out even a few minutes with your girl can create the space for your girl to open up with you.
Listen more than you talk.
Once she opens up with you it becomes all about keeping the conversation flowing. Key to keeping her talking is listening to her. The best time to practice listening is when there isn’t a problem in your girl’s life. Keep in mind that if you ignore or brush off your daughter when she’s rattling on about the latest movie she’s watched or the silly joke her friend said at school that day, you’re missing an opportunity to show her you are a good listener. When you’re really connecting, your body language says “I’m listening and you have my full attention.” Eyes and ears are on your daughter and your iphone is down. You’ll find that if you do a really good job in moments like these, she will come to you when life gets really hard.”
Give advice, only if she wants it.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is giving unsolicited advice. I've done it myself and it doesn't work. Communication specialists advise to not give advice unless it’s asked for.
It’s natural to want to fix a problem. Your daughter comes home from school in tears that her best friend is ignoring her at lunch and you want to step in and call a meeting with the school principal and her parents. While a situation might warrant that at some point, first talk with your girl and ask her, “how can I help you?” before taking action. Invite her to process her experience by asking questions like, “How did that make you feel?” and validate her experience by saying things like, “That must have been so hard.” Follow up with "How do you want to handle this?" Then explore her potential solutions. If she struggles to find an answer, ask her, "Would you like my advice?"
Girls are learning to take on more of the responsibility for handling their daily life situations. By being an active listener and refraining from giving advice unless asked for, you can help her learn this important skill.
Every girl is different. Every conversation is different. If you are looking to improve your conversation with your daughter or the girls you work with – try these simple, but effective approaches to communication.
Once you’ve had a chance to read this post, I’ve got a question for you today:
- If the best way to keep the communication lines open with a girl is to listen, what’s one way you could be a better listener with her starting right now? Share with me in the comments below!
Do you know someone who struggles to get their girl to talk? Share this article with them!
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