Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
With the uncertainty of Coronavirus, it’s anyone’s guess when our children will return to the pool and school. We may wonder how we should talk about the pandemic with our children and how it affects our families. I learned about better communication in a webinar called, “How to Improve Sport-Family Conversations,” by David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. He’s an expert hired by USA Swimming and many other youth sports organizations to coach sports parents.
In Benzel’s talk, he tied sport-family conversations into other aspects of our lives like COVID-19 and how to talk to your kids honestly and directly. With many families spending more time together, we’re presented with a perfect opportunity to work on communicating effectively.
Here are some of the tips I learned to help with better conversations from Benzel’s webinar:
Helpful conversations include the word “why” and “what.” For example, talk about why we play sports, why we work hard, what commitment means, or what emotions can do to us.
Try to avoid conversations that focus on “how.” It’s not our place to tell our kids how to train or how to execute technique.
The exception to #2 is when we are invited. When our kids ask for our input, we can dive in with advice about “how.”
Unhealthy or toxic conversations may end with either person in a flight or fight response. One person may dominate and lecture, which can end in attacks. The person on the receiving end withdraws. That person may answer with one word answers, cross their arms and not make eye contact. It takes one person to say, “We need to start over. This isn’t going well.”
If the conversation is on the wrong track, try to understand why the other person is acting the way they are. What is really going on? Ask yourself, what part of this is due to me? That will help get both parties back to healthy communication.
High quality conversations require transparency and trust. Find common ground and discover what both parties want. Show respect with your words, tone and body language. Reach for mutual understanding by sharing facts and feelings.
Benzel described five keys to close family relationships by quoting Dean Ornish, president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute: “Communicate deeply, forgive genuinely, serve generously, touch caringly and develop spiritually.”
What conversations have you had with your kids during these uncertain times?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.