By Bobbi DePorter
These are challenging times for all of us, and perhaps especially for families. Most parents are working from home, and students are being schooled at home—it’s a lot of togetherness!!
Our children are also struggling. They’re away from their friends, they’re trying to do their schoolwork and learn at home. They’re feeling isolated and unmotivated. And no one—not parents or their children—has a “social life” now. Everyone’s new “normal” day-to-day life is far removed from what they’re used to. Even in the best of family relationships, this can become trying for all.
Though you may have good communication with your children, these are challenging times and being more mindful of building rapport goes a long way. Rapport is defined as a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.
Rapport creates emotional engagement and gives us on-ramps into our children’s lives. It creates a way for us to enter their world, know their concerns, and share their successes. Rapport helps us understand our children’s feelings and ideas as well as their fears and challenges, leading to better communication and solid relationships.
Here are a few suggestions for building and maintaining rapport with your children.
- Tell me more. When asking teens about their day, many simply answer We want to know what they like, how they think, and how they feel about what’s happening in their lives. When you ask a question and you get a common teen one- or two-word reply, continue with tell me more. Then stay quiet and give them a chance to answer.
- What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best? When you see signs of FEAR (what we refer to as false expectations appearing real) in your child, acknowledge it and show that you understand. Then ask What’s the worst that could happen? and What’s the best?Usually this will lead to more clarity about the perceived fear, and what they may be sensing from you about current challenges. Being honest and open goes a long way, and it’s reassuring for them to know you share their concerns.
- WIIFM: If your child is struggling with low motivation, as many are in this new virtual learning environment, help them find something of interest to them personally in what they’re learning. We call it WIIFM (pronounced wiffem), which stands for what’s in it for me? Help them find the WIIFM, no matter how farfetched it may seem, and with it they may find a new more positive attitude.
- Acknowledge every effort. To help children struggling with low self-esteem, acknowledge every effort. When your child makes an effort and completes a task, instead of simply saying great job, acknowledge the effort they put in and tell them what you noticed. At SuperCamp we include numerous “mini-success moments” and take a moment to acknowledge the effort that resulted in their success.
- How do you CHOOSE to feel? If you believe your child has been hurt by something someone said or did to them, try asking them How do you feel?Tell them that although we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react to it. Then ask How do you CHOOSE to feel?
- Failure leads to success. When your child feels like a failure because they failed at something, tell them about Failure Leads to Success (one of our 8 Keys of Excellence).Help them to change the way they think about failure. Instead of thinking that they are a failure, encourage them to think about failure as a valuable learning experience. When they learn from their mistakes rather than sending themselves negative messages, they are on the path to success. They can then ask themselves three questions:
What did I learn?
How will I apply what I learned?
- Speak with good purpose. Another one of our 8 Keys of Excellence is Speak with Good Purpose: Think before you speak and speak honestly and kindly. Talk to your child about this key and how it applies to what they say to themselves as well as what they say to others. Encourage them to pay attention to that “voice in their head,” especially when it tells them negative things about themselves, and assure them that positive thoughts about who they are can correct that voice.
- A few more tips. And finally, here are a few more things you can do on a continuing basis to maintain a positive relationship with your child.
- Imagine what they might say to themselves, about themselves.
- Speak the truth to them clearly, in a way that ensures they can hear it and understand it.
- Have fun with them.
- Treat them as equals.
- Trust them.
- Listen—really listen—to what your children say to you, and note their non-verbal communication as well.
- And last, but not least—allow and encourage your children to do all of the above with you.
Positive support, a nurturing environment, and good communication are essential for strong relationships with your children. Parents who make an effort to build rapport with their children will not only strengthen their relationships, but also build their children’s feelings of acceptance and trust. This in turn builds their self-confidence, a vital ingredient in their overall happiness.
Built on mutual trust and emotional comfort, rapport develops over time and must be nurtured. It is, however, well worth every minute that you—and your children—put into it. When children feel understood and supported, they feel safe and happy, at home and in themselves.
President, Quantum Learning Network
Find out more about SuperCamp’s new virtual programs:
Quantum Learning is embraced by tens of thousands of schools, with significant positive results. QL methods orchestrate joyful, engaging, and meaningful learning, and are the foundation of our programs. SuperCamp, the leading learning and life skills summer residential leadership program for nearly 40 years, has more than 85,000 graduates.