What I said:
Since my kids are 1 and 3 I'll speak from a different POV... the POV of having been a teen and how my mom kept communication open with me, and also of being an oldest child and how I kept communication open with my youngest sibling through times in his life when he wasn't comfortable talking to our parents.
1) LISTEN! If you're so busy talking, telling, or scolding that you don't hear them, they're not gonna come back next time. So before you open your mouth, close it and listen to the child, hear them totally out. When they are finished is the time to put in your 2 cents. While they are talking, make sure you are communicating to them that you are listening with your heart to what they are saying.
2) Start young. If your toddler is babbling at you incoherently and you just distractedly say, "Oh that's nice dear..." and go on about your business, there is a prime starting place for positive change on YOUR part. You need to listen to them when they are babies, listen with your ears and your heart. Give them your full attention. Get down to their level. Really try to understand them. Let them use props like pointing or signing, or taking you to see what it is they are talking about, or acting it out to help you understand them. Listen to your tot even when you can't understand them. Listen to your 9 year old even when she hasn't taken a breath in 12 sentences and you're going cross-eyed trying to keep up. Then when she's 13, 15, 17, she will know that you will listen when she wants to tell you about the boy who broke her heart and the best friend that went over to the Dark Side. And she will be proud to tell you about how she turned down a cigarette behind the bleachers today because she knows instead of jumping on her after the first sentece with dire warnings, you will listen to her whole story and be so proud of her when she gets to the end. Or she will know that if she made a mistake she can count on you to listen to the whole story so that you know where she was coming from when she made the mistake.
3) Tell stories. Kids love to hear about how you were a kid like them once and that even though times have changed, there were pressures on you as a child that can help them relate to pressures they will face. Don't wait for it to happen and then use your story as an object lesson... it's better to preempt it! You know she'll be getting her first cycle soon so when you're together tell her about what happened to you your first cycle so she knows what to expect. Tell it in a timely manner. It won't do any good WAY before the fact. It might not do as much good after the fact. But always be telling your kids stories about you. TRUE stories. They might not always have a HAPPY ending, but they should always have a PURPOSE and a lesson in them. Even if it's just to tell your kids you have been there so when you say don't go there they know you speak from experience.
4) Answer the phone!! This one I learned the hard way with my 21 year old brother. :( Always always always make time for them when they want to talk. Even if they call right when you're about to go take a nap, or want to talk when you're in the middle of cooking supper, it's so very important to take the time for them so they know they are more important to you than a nap or supper. Even if you have to say, "Well I'm in the middle of supper right now so how about afterwards when you're loading the dishwasher I will have your Dad bathe the littler ones tonight and I'll help you with the dishes while we talk? That way we can have some privacy just you and I!" Or if they call from college or their own home when you are busy, make sure you call them back that same day! If you don't call back it hurts them. It hurts them deeply. So please, answer when they need you! If you don't, you will lose their hearts and they will stop talking to you and start talking to their peers instead!
Smockity Reviews and Giveaways: Lines of Communication (and a $200 Visa gift card)