Sometimes the dark side of the moon and lack of radio contact means they don’t want to associate with parents and siblings (leave me alone!). Or they don’t want to live in a social society (leave me alone, and stay out of my room!). Or they know better than their parents (you just don’t get it!).
While out of radio contact, they will often question and challenge family norms and mores. They may challenge house rules and they may reject the faith of their fathers. (As Latter-day Saints we are sometimes pleased and even impressed when a young person does this and joins the church; we are horrified when one of our own does it and leaves.)
Parents, of course, wonder how to reach kids when they are out of radio contact. And I wish I could tell you how to do it. I can’t. But I can share some things I learned along the way. Last time I wrote about the need to fill our kids’ well so that when they are out of touch with us, they will still have some of “us” in reserve.
Here are three more ideas:
1. Use other voices (that is the voices of others, not becoming Mel Blanc, though if a Bugs Bunny impersonation gets their attention, go for it!). We rely on our friends, the parents of our kids’ friends, to reinforce lessons we teach our kids. This is true for our LDS and non-LDS friends. Of course as kids grow older and become more independent, it’s increasingly difficult to keep track of friends and their parents. We rely on church leaders and teachers to help. Studies the church has done have shown that seminary teachers have consistently scored at the top of the list of key influencers for those who have served missions. And we hope that good friends (in and out of the church) will also be a voice of reason for our kids. (Of course this last one is the most challenging, since our kids’ friends are all similar ages and may be in their own period of radio silence.)
2. We have also found that talking to the kids constantly helps. And listening. Whenever they want. I remember ten or eleven years ago when our youngest was an infant and our oldest kids were older teens. The baby would nurse and go to bed and then the older kids would suddenly want to talk to their mom into the wee hours of the morning. Frankly, I don’t know how my lovely wife survived those years of teenage boys and babies. But her constant willingness to talk and to listen (even when she hated what she heard) was a huge factor in our kids’ staying connected even as they separated from some of the things that were most important to us.
My oldest daughter went through a phase in which she did not talk to her mother. Sometimes for days. And my lovely wife would not know why. Sometimes I would come home from work and get the assignment to figure out why the cone of silence had descended and excluded my lovely wife. Fortunately, that period was very short for our daughter.It took some time for me to learn that it was more important to me for my kids to want to be at my dining room table than on the bench next to me in sacrament meeting, but that has made a huge difference in how we related to our kids, especially those who have not followed us in church activity. (I’ve blogged about that here and here.)
3. That experience points out another tool in our toolbox, namely that we both have roles to play. I don’t know if it’s Freudian or normal or if we’re victims of stereotyping, but the boys always had a better relationship with their mom in those years, and the girls have gone through periods of time in which they seem more willing to talk to me. We are very lucky to have both of us around to share the task of parenting, and sometimes one of us can do what the other can’t.
Happy to hear your thoughts about how to communicate with those who are in radio silence.
UPDATE: Ardis has posted a second installment on Vanguard Scouting. The first section of the post does a nice job of explaining some of the signs of movement to the dark side of the moon. You can find her post here.