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Parent Communication | How to Effectively Communicate with Your Children

March 30th, 2010 - Category: Communication

Communication is so key in every type of human relationship. It is how we express ourselves and it is how we understand the expressions of others. To communicate is to effectively portray ones feelings to another. We want others to understand the way we feel so we have developed common signals (verbal or non-verbal) amongst ourselves in order to be able to share those feelings. I like this quote from the wikipedia communication page.

“Although there is such a thing as one-way communication, communication can be perceived better as a two-way process in which there is an exchange and progression of thoughts, feelings or ideas (energy) towards a mutually accepted goal or direction (information).”

Our children wish to express their feelings to us as parents. Sometimes, however, we limit ourselves in trying to recognize the types of symbols that our children use which can sometimes be vastly different than how grown ups communicate. Likewise, children are often confused at the way we strive to communicate with them. This is not because they are at a  ”lesser level” than us, but simply that our ways of communication are different from each other.

Communication and Age

It’s important to remember that your 3 year old toddler will require a different type of communication than your teenage boy. A series of future posts will discuss some of the specific ways in which we should communicate with our children at the varying different stages of their lives.

Be aware however, that the same basic principles of communication apply to nearly all age groups. I found this great article that discusses some of the basics of good parent/child communication. It lists some very key things to remember such as: not towering over your child when speaking to him, don’t ask “why” but rather ask “what happened,” turning off the television or putting down the newspaper when your child is speaking, don’t use put-down words like “dumb” or “stupid,” and many others that are essential in effectively communicating with your kids.

Listen and Learn From Your Kids

You would be surprised at some of the things you can learn from your kids, the stories they tell and the things they do and say. Listening is one of the most important components of effective communication. If the person that is sharing their feelings does not feel like the receiver is listening, they may feel like their ideas are not important to that person and they will be less likely to share their feelings with them in the future.

Getting Your Kids to Talk to You

You children need to know that you care. Many parents complain that they cannot get their kids to say a word to them. Though they try and try, the child never seems willing to share their thoughts with them. This is very common and usually stems from previous repeated occurrences of the parent(s) not showing interest in their children.

Please don’t be taken back by this if you are in this type of situation. Most parents REALLY DO want to know what their children are thinking and be involved in their lives, but many times we don’t know how to effectively communicate that to the child. Here are some helpful hints that may help bring out the emotions and feelings your child has to share.

  • ask open ended questions (what did you think about that? How did that make you feel?… avoid using “why?”)
  • Do not be judgmental. Instead, try to put yourself in their shoes and ask them to explain the situation and how they felt when certain things happened.)
  • Re-state what you understand about their story so they know you are listening and to ensure you understand them correctly
  • Learn about the things your child is interested in. This helps you understand them better. By your being interested in the same things, you can become their friend and not just a parent and they will want to share things with you with less hesitation.
  • Be patient. Do not interrupt them and don’t prod them to speak more. Allow them to explain things at their own pace and in their own time.
  • Ask specific questions about specific topics. Instead of asking, “How was school today?’ you might consider asking, “what did you study today in history?”
  • Refrain from giving advice unless your child specifically asks for it.
  • Sympathize with your child. If they say they hate school, remember when you used to hate school too and express your sympathy for them. This will help them open up about more specifics as to why they stated that they hate school in the first place.

These are just a few of the many tips and topics of discussion that we could bring up regarding communication and getting your children to freely speak with you. Look for more posts on communication in the future and please share with us your ideas on parent communication and how to effectively communicate with your children.

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