By Jay Tucker
Do you remember the TV show “Leave it to Beaver?” The terrifically sappy show starring Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers…as the Beaver, is a classic portrait of Americana family in the 1950s. Sure the show was unrealistic. All of the problems of the world were neatly settled in 23 minutes and all done without mussing June’s hair. Ah, if life were just that simple!
One of the most important truths that the show conveyed was that family unity must be achieved by spending time together as a family. Just about every episode of the show showed the family dining together. It was typically during these times in each episode where the problem was presented and mom and dad offered their counsel. Beaver and Wally usually tried to do things their own way at first, but ultimately the parental advice saved the day.
Times have changed, but some things have remained the same. Children still have problems and mom and dad have wisdom to share. Unfortunately, the time together spent over a meal has all but disappeared. Most American families spend more time apart than they do together. We live in a society that makes it necessary for both parents to have full-time jobs. Our children are just as busy. They spend at least seven hours a day in school, come home to do hours of homework, and then rush away to work or to be involved in some club or activity. The time for conversation has been reduced to a few passing words uttered as we get to our next task.
We understand that we can’t quit our jobs and that our children still need to go to school. What about the rest of the day? Here are a few thoughts.
- Take advantage of the way young people communicate. Learn how to use the text option on your phone. If you absolutely can not be face-to-face with your child, this is an option that can keep you in the loop.
- Make and post a schedule on the front door of when breakfast, lunch, or dinner will be served. Communicate to your child that this is the result of how much you love them and miss them. Encourage them to be there! You’ll be amazed what happens when you request their presence instead of demand it.
- Let your child determine the topics of discussion. Be creative by asking questions that will lead to discussion about what is going on in their lives. For example, if they want to talk about “American Idol” ask them who they most identify with on the show and why.
- Suggest that your child invite a friend to meal time occasionally. Take the time to get to know their friends. (Even if they have several piercings)
- If, at first, your children aren’t very talkative, don’t force them to talk. Let them enter into the conversation on their own time. Trying to force a young person to talk is like trying to eat Jello with a fork.
- Don’t try to be “cool”. Nothing will turn a young person off faster than trying to act their age. Remember that they WANT your wisdom! The have plenty of friends their own age.
- Avoid these phrases at all cost; “You just think you have problems”, “When I was your age”, “One day you will understand”, “Do as I say and not as I do”, and “Because I said so”
Communication is a skill that takes lots of practice. Understand that it may not go well at the start. Your child will probably resist your attempts at getting to know them better, especially if talking to each other is a foreign concept. Start small! Begin by telling them that you love them and that you truly want to hear about their day. When they do start talking to you, remember to listen! Resist the urge to butt in with a solution right away. Sometimes all they want is for someone to listen to them.
About the Author
Jay Tucker is fulltime Youth Minister and dad in Florida and author of “The Whole Youth Worker: Advice on Professional, Personal, and Physical Wellness from the Trenches” from Loving Healing Press. You can read more articles by Jay at his website www.BetterYouthMinistry.com·