Communication Breakdown! How an entire generation forgot how to say, 'hi'!
Lately, I have become increasingly aware of a shift in the way we communicate with each other and the way our children are now learning to communicate with each other.
I’m sure that we all agree that mental health has been given a lot of publicity lately. I absolutely agree with and applaud the efforts to highlight the need for more awareness and support for people struggling with their mental health. After all, I’d be in the wrong job if I didn’t applaud this.
However, something that I am becoming increasingly aware of has made me stop and think about is the way we communicate with each other and therefore the way we communicate with our children, be them our own children, or the children we work with. Have we become so ‘busy’ with our very important lives, that we wait until the people around us are in real need of help before we reach out to them? It seems that our busy lives are creating situations where most of the conversations we have with each other are to pass on instructions/tasks to someone, complain about the instructions/tasks we have been given or to say ‘I’m really sorry, I’m busy at the moment, can I catch up with you later?’
What I’m seeing is most of the communication that goes on between adults and children is problem-solving or passing on instructions. ‘That’s our job’ you say. Well, it is, and it isn’t. Let me explain my thoughts.
Our children are learning that the way to communicate with adults is to ask them to solve a problem or to give an answer to a direct question they have been asked.
This problem usually involves a friend or peer and the direct questions are usually around a learning task or to ask why they have or have not done something. If you work with or have children, I’m sure you are nodding your head right about now. There are a lot of reasons this might be, but I’m becoming more convinced that this is the only way that children some of our children know how to communicate with adults.
Not in any way a criticism but when was the last time you had the time to have a ‘real’ conversation with one of the children you work with. When I say real I just mean chatting, nonsense, having a laugh? I decided to ‘make time’ last week for this, just to see what would happen.
I sat down at a table at lunchtime with a group of children and just smiled and said ‘Hi’ What I was met with was confusion, a bit of worry and might I say even suspicion. I was very clear that these children were waiting for this ‘adult’ to ask them to do something or ask them to stop doing something. When I started to just ‘chat’, they eventually started to chat back, to the point where I thought I wasn’t going to getaway! This told me what I already knew. Our children want to communicate with us in a much less structured way, they want to learn those skills that will help them to communicate with their peers.
Let’s stop giving each other and our children the message that communication is only about problem-solving and that we are ‘too busy’ for anything else. Let’s start chatting with each other, making time for each other. Let’s stop waiting until someone is in crisis before we reach out to them.
My challenge for myself and for you is to take the words ‘I’m busy’ out of our vocabulary. I plan to spend this month making time, and seeing friends and colleagues, not because I need them to do something for me or they need me to do something. I want to spend some time chatting, laughing and reconnecting with people. Not all day, but every day.
Communities thrive when it’s members interact and communicate with each other. Let’s start to build positive mental health for the generations to come by doing what we do best. Putting the kettle on and taking the time to chat with our friends and family.