Today’s article on how to teach your child healthy relationships comes from HowToLearn.com expert Kathy Seifert, Ph.D., author and regular guest on CNN.
In order to learn how to teach your child healthy relationships, parents teach children the importance of problem solving by answering their “Why, where, what” questions.
It also helps children if a parent takes some time to explain how she came to that answer. For instance, if the child asks, “Where is my ball?”
Mother might say, “I don’t know, but let’s go look for it. Where do you think it might be?” Therefore, one is not just answering questions and reinforcing the child’s natural curiosity, but teaching the child how to find answers to questions and solutions to problems.
Another important process is going on, as well. In order for a child’s brain to develop sufficiently, children need warm, loving relationships with their mothers or other caregivers.
Healthy relationships are built by solving the problem together. Without healthy relationships, childhood development does not proceed in a healthy manner.
Another aspect when learning how to teach your child healthy relationships is teaching problem solving when there is upset or conflict.
The measure of a relationship is not what happens when things are going well, but what happens when 2 people are in conflict, even if it is a mother and a child. Conflict, in healthy relationships, occurs from time to time, results in an emotional display, and is followed by clarifying both party’s needs.
Then problem solving is necessary, followed by resolution and satisfaction, leading to a strengthening of the relationship. Unresolved problems and unmet needs, if repeated often, can lead to a weakening of relationships.
Children need to learn how to have healthy relationships as well as how to problem solve.
Parents, caregivers, and grandparents can teach healthy relationships by demonstrating healthy relationships and problem solving in their interactions with their children and each other.
How do you get to problem solving and healthy relationships, if you are upset? When people are upset, there has to be time for each person in the relationship to express how he/she feels and be heard. This is another way to learn how to teach your child healthy relationships.
That does not mean you have to agree, but each recognizes and listens to the other’s point of view. This can be done by using “I” statements, such as, “I feel _______, when you __________.” The second person reflects back what he heard the first person say, such as, “I hear you saying you feel ________ when I _______________.
Do I have that right?” The first person feels that his feelings are validated and heard rather than dismissed. Roles are reversed and the dialogue repeats itself.
Once each hears the feelings of the other, the mother can teach the child how to look for the problem to be solved.
“Sounds like you do not want to do your homework because you will miss your favorite show on TV. I want you to finish your homework. How can you help me solve this problem?”
A problem solving session follows.
It could go something like, “I will let you watch 1 TV show if you immediately and cheerfully go do your homework as soon as the show is over. If you do this, you may choose another show to watch.
If you do not do your homework cheerfully and right away, then there will be no more TV until your homework is done and you are pleasant and cheerful. Do we have a solution to our problem?
Are we both agreed to our solution? OK, that’s great. Good job problem solving! Problem solving is important throughout life. The more you repeat this process, the better children will learn to problem solve, whether the adult is present or not.
Dr. Kathy Seifert is a nationally renowned expert on preventing bullying and helping parents, teachers and doctors understand how children can become violent. She is the founder of DrKathySeiftert.com, appears regularly on CNN, and has significant expertise in showing parents how to teach your child healthy relationships.