Now this might seem a bit rich from someone who writes a blog every month about communication with children and young people, but in this column I’d like to touch on having faith in your own judgement, rather than stressing out about what you read is the correct way to do things.
There is so much information out there. Some of it is conflicting, and much of it sounds as though it’s riding roughshod over natural instincts and causing us to mistrust our own gut feelings. But it’s worth taking some reassurance from the fact that the human race seemed to perpetuate just fine before all the instruction manuals came into being.
I don’t mean to dismiss the value of expert advice (obviously!) or to talk down all the wonderful resources that are available to us in the modern age, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed by it all and to forget that each and every one of us has natural instincts that are valid.
When push comes to shove, I believe that if you hold in mind that any child or young person is a human being that you should treat with the same love and respect that you would offer any other person that you care about - and that you would want for yourself - the upshot should be better than if you try and manipulate behaviour according to the current fashion or trend.
Spend time with your children at crucial moments of transition, waking up or arriving home if you’re a parent; arriving or leaving school if you’re a teacher. Take time to find out how they are, let them know that your intention is an awareness of their being. It only takes two minutes to make a difference.
Pay attention to - give in to - your humanity, and mostly I think that leads to deeper, better and more genuine communication and connection.
In the world of conference speaking, people often use the phrase ‘The Big Take Home’ or ‘The Big Take Away’, and almost any guide to public speaking will tell you that all presentations should have one. It’s a perfectly valid piece of advice and I always find it useful to decide on the main point I want people to leave with, even before I start writing a speech.
So hands up everyone who made it through all those weeks of lockdown without having a single meltdown…
Thought so. You’d have to be some kind of mythical being not to have lost your rag with someone or other during these exceptionally hard times, and children can’t have escaped being in the firing line. Even though we know they are under stress too, they’ll behave in ways that really push our buttons and make it impossible for us to take that into account. Blow-ups are bound to occur, but when they do, the important thing is how we deal with the situation afterwards.
Not everyone has been disappointed about being unable to have the family over for Xmas. As part of a get together on Zoom over the festive season, where I knew only a few of the attendees, one woman was sounding-off about how thrilled she was to be able to avoid her in-laws this year.
When I was a little girl, these were the words I dreaded hearing coming out of my mother’s mouth. They always heralded a difficult topic, and were a signal for me to be on my guard. Mostly, whatever it was Mum wanted to talk to me about was never as bad as I had imagined it might be.