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To learn more we turned to Lesley Lacny, a registered psychologist based in Toronto, for her advice on how to cultivate a more honest relationship with your kids.
1. Create opportunities to connect
By making communication a consistent part of your family relationship your children will learn to feel comfortable communicating regularly. To facilitate open communication, engage with your kids in the situations they feel most comfortable in.
"Look for opportunities to be involved in something your child enjoys," advises Lacny. "It's often easier to get children to express themselves if there is a distraction, which can make the discussion less intimidating, or a tool to support expression, such as storytelling, art or play," she explains. When kids are comfortable and relaxed, they are more likely to say what's on their minds.
2. Don't just leave it at "Because I said so."
Kids can have a hard time dealing with the word "No." But if you explain why, for example, they are not allowed to walk to school by themselves or go for a bike ride after dark, they're more likely to understand your choices.
"While you may not be able to give your child what they want, it doesn't mean you can't empathize with the disappointment they feel," says Lacny. "Support your children in understanding the meaning of 'No,' but also help them to cope with the consequences of a 'No.' Soothe them and comfort their tears when their disappointment comes up," she advises.
When you explain to your children that your decisions are based on their well-being, they'll be more likely to make safe and constructive choices all by themselves in the future.
3. Approach big issues in a relaxed way
If the prospect of addressing a big issue with your child is worrying you, it's probably even more important to get it out in the open. Pave the path for open conversation by approaching the issue with a relaxed manner.
"If parents feel awkward, chances are the child will pick up on this and will in turn feel uncomfortable," says Lacny. "Remind yourself of the importance of discussing the issue -- regardless of how uncomfortable it may be for you. The discomfort may be lessened by discussing the topic in the car, while on a walk or while eating."
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more great ways to have an honest relationship with your kids on page 2 4. Be tolerant with your kids
Forming a trusting and honest relationship with your children requires letting them know that you accept them and love them even when they make mistakes. Practise being tolerant of hearing about your kids' not-so-proud moments, advises Lacny.
"When encouraging open communication, be prepared that what may be communicated to you may not always be what you want to hear," she warns. "Check in with yourself about how you manage uncomfortable discussions and model to your child how to communicate openly, even when it comes to things that are uncomfortable."
5. Don't let stress dictate the example you set
The problem that arises when you give into a knee-jerk reaction is that your kids will be less likely to tell you the truth in the future. Losing your temper isn't constructive for you or for your relationship.
"When we are stressed, it is easy to jump into our autopilot mode instead of making a choice about how to respond," says Lacny. Take the time to think about how you want to react. "It's OK to take a break. Trying to deal with a situation when you are all worked up will usually end up escalating the situation," she explains. "If you are angry and reactive, your child will likely be angry and reactive toward you and it will be difficult for him to absorb what you are trying to teach him."
6. Learn from your mistakes
No one is perfect, and negative reactions to conflict are bound to erupt at some point -- and that's OK. What is important is that both you and your children understand that trust is all about loving each other through both conflict and in good times.
"Know that you cannot always react the way you had hoped to, remind yourself that you are human, look at what could be done differently to prevent the same pattern from recurring and focus on what you can do now to make the situation better," advises Lacny.
When you are honest with your kids, you set the example that honesty is the best option. If you cultivate relationships that are comfortable and invite sharing every day, your kids will grow into confident, sincere adults, and will learn to expect the same from others.
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