I have been at home with my children for a little more than 2 years. My middle child (4) probably receives the worst of my parenting because while the oldest needs me to bring her to martial arts class and the youngest needs me to feed her, my middle child wants me to play with her.
When we play I find that I am bored very easily. I feel bad because I’m thinking of other things I could be doing. The fact that this is common is not helpful to me because I want my child to know I enjoy being with her.
Over time, I realized that I don’t even know how to talk to her.
Talking to a 4-year-old
One day while we were sitting at the dining room table together it occurred to me that I could ask her about herself and then gear things toward her that she likes. After all, it works with adults.
“What’s your favorite color?” I asked.
That would have been my guess, but I didn’t really know for sure.
Asking a child about her favorite things is a great way to have a conversation. From there, parents can dive into deeper issues, especially since a comfort level will form and grow where parent and child can speak more openly about a wider array of topics.
Why Conversation is Important
If your child is used to talking to you, he or she will talk openly more often. And you’ll be better at talking to them. For example, my daughter came home and told me that her classmate told her that ‘he knows a woman that showed him her penis, and then she licked it.’
While I was on the verge of freaking out because one of her classmates may be getting abused, I realized that among many things this boy might think that the word penis applies to private parts of both boys and girls, and that he’s saying things that are just weird, just as my daughter graced me one day with a joke about peeing out of her butt.
The important thing was that I let the conversation go on so I could get the vital information. Then I let my daughter know that while penis is not a bad word, it’s not something we want to go around saying.
Next, I had a conversation with the boy’s mother. She said that her two older boys did similar things at 4, talking about private parts and trying to see mommy naked to find out what her penis looked like, concluding that hers was broken.
This matters so much because today she’s telling me about how a boy saw a girl’s private parts; tomorrow, she’ll let me know if kids were smoking pot at a party, her teacher is abusing his power, a student is bullying her, or if she feels depressed.
But it all has to start early because in order for her to talk to me tomorrow I’ll have had to have had open lines of communication yesterday. If not, I won’t get to find these things out; her friends will, and they will not likely have the same care, guidance, and advice that I will.