The holiday is on, and the festive season is in the offing as well. After many days away from home, children, particularly those who go to boarding schools, now have a chance to bond with family and open up to their parents about personal issues. This, however, may not come easy because of the break-down in communication due to the many months spent apart during school time. Education Times’ Joan Mbabazi explores the different strategies parents can employ this holiday to help their children open up about the successes, as well as challenges faced at school.
“Parents need to spare time and have an outing away from home with their children so that they share each other’s experiences in everything that has been going on throughout the whole year. Holiday is the ideal time to catch up,” says Charles Mutazihana, the principal and head teacher, Kigali Parents School.
Mutazihana also says through sharing experiences, parents would be able to figure out the challenges their children came across and give the right advice and counseling.
For Collins Odhiambo, a teacher and counsellor, parents should use this holiday to hold ‘small talks’ with their children.
“It is through those small talks like over the weekend and after supper, that children feel cared for thus being able to open up about how they spent their term. The more you engage your child in conversations, the more you learn about their habits, friends, and hobbies, among others,” he says.
However, Odhiambo says parents should not just start conversations randomly, especially if the subject is personal, but rather engage them when they feel comfortable to speak about an issue.
“Parents need to be available for their children because parenthood is more than paying school fees and buying material things for their children. They need to know the little details about their child, whether their passion is in music or drama and provide the necessary support,” says Israel Oluwaseyi, the dean of students’ affairs at Green Hills Academy.
Oluwaseyi adds that when a parent notices that their child is taking a wrong path or joining bad groups and company, they should not judge them but first inquire about what could be the cause of such behaviour.
He believes that if the cause is known, then the right advice should be given and the child monitored for change. “If the child fails to change, the parent should visit a counsellor for help.”
Oluwaseyi says some parents make a mistake to think they should always have the final say and since they are too busy, they cut off children’s conversation thus leaving them in loneliness and feeling unloved.
“When children are not heard out, they turn to their peers for advice, which can be negative in some cases,” says Oluwaseyi.
He also advises parents to use this holiday to befriend their children.
“Shouting or yelling at them when they make a mistake is not the solution; instead, find opportunities of discussing their mistakes with them, pointing their attention to the consequences.”
Oluwaseyi explains that such an approach will yield confidence in the parent and the child will constantly want to confide in them.
“Parents should find ways to enjoy their children’s company by having fun time together as the children may feel relaxed enough to open up to the parent about the things happening around them,” he adds.
Oluwaseyi urges parents not to compare their children to those of their relatives or their friends because it only serves to increase the distance between them.
“Parents must be aware that every child is unique in their own way. All children need is attention, support and encouragement.”
“As we speak to children, we should not allow destruction from our phones or television because we might be too carried away with gadgets to listen to our children,” says Florence Mwiza, a resident of Kanombe, Kigali.
She adds that once in a while children should be involved in making decisions, for example, what to cook for dinner, where to visit, and when to renovate the house, because it makes them feel loved and encourages them to speak to their parents.
Mwiza also says parents should do some activities like washing or cooking with their children since they can use such a chance to ask their children all they need to know about themselves.
Moses Murungi, a father of two and resident of Remera, Kigali, says children need special time to play with their parents may be over the weekend as a way of bonding.
“Go together for shopping, but also listen to children’s stories whether sensible or not; show interest, support and affection, especially when they are down and disappointed. You can also buy them gifts, and encourage them to count on you always,” he says.