You need to be tuned into your kid's life to guide them through the problems they will face and recognize when they are in over their head. Good communication needs to be built up and maintained. It cannot suddenly be created when a crisis comes along.
Good listening skills are essential but in short supply these days.
- Pay attention. No distractions
- Invite them to talk e.g. "tell me about ..."
- Be patient as kids verbal skills are not perfect
- Listen and look for emotions being expressed
- Acknowledge what they are saying
- Keep questions to a minimum
Be available when they need youThis may seem obvious but we often get caught up in the day to day hassle of life. If you really cannot make time for them there and then, make an appointment to be with them. Assure them that there will be no distractions and you will be better able to listen.
Make time to be with your child regularly
By making time regularly for your kid, you make them feel special and that you are interested in what's going on in their life. They will feel much more comfortable talking to you if they are facing a problem.
If they want you to keep a secret, do not promise to keep it. The information may be too important and you may need to share it with others to deal with whatever they tell you.
Instead tell them that you will keep it to yourself so long as it does not involve something that might be serious and affect their health or welfare.
Use positive language
Do not use the "I told you so" if a child admits to a mistake. Be positive. Use phrases like "I am glad you know how to better deal with that next time". A negative response can shut down your child's communication just when they need you.