Encourage open, honest, and thoughtful reflection. Allow children of all ages to express their ideas, expectations, questions, and concerns. Be careful not to dismiss their ideas as “wrong” or “childish.” Rather, encourage dialogue by asking them to tell you more or describe how they arrived to a certain conclusion. Children, especially teens, will look to you for information, advice, and answers only if they feel you are open to their questions and thoughts. It’s up to you to create the kind of environment in which your children can ask questions about any subject freely and without fear of consequences.
Give positive feedback
Give positive feedback when you see or hear of your children making healthy and respectful choices about their own communications (including practicing good listening) and relationships with friends and family. Tell your children you are impressed when they do things that reflect your values. You can say, “I admire the way you helped your sister today, even though you were annoyed. What made you react that way? It was very mature and I like it when you’re kind to her.”
Be courageous. If your children are old enough to ask a question, they are old enough to hear the correct answer and learn the correct words.
- Be sure that you understand what your children are asking. Rephrase the question for clarification. For example: “I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean. Are you asking why people hold hands, or are you asking if it’s OK for you to hold someone else’s hand?” You don’t want to give a long explanation that doesn’t answer the question.
- When possible, answer the question when it is asked. Take advantage of the teachable moments. For example, if your child asks you, “How are babies made?” as you are leaving for work, assure your child that you are happy to talk about that question because it is an important one, but that you will answer at a different time when both of you can have quality time with each other. “We’ll talk about this while you and I make dinner tonight, OK?” And make sure you do make time.
- If your child has a developmental disability or is more a visual learner, use pictures and other visual aids as often as you can. For example, photos of family or friends can illustrate conversations about relationships and social interactions.
Te Invito is a campaign for individuals and organizations to increase awareness and engage Latino men and boys in preventing domestic violence.