Most people have a vision of teens and tweens who find it difficult to discuss anything with their parents. These teens tend to think their parents just won’t understand or won’t listen. There are those, though, that do have healthy and positive communication with their parents at this age and it all starts at a young age. By practicing healthy communication each day, you build a stronger family for the future.
Keys to Healthy Communication
- Disconnect – Not from others, from your technology devices. Turn of your tablets, take out your headphones, put your phone in another room, and focus on the family. These days, we all seem to be caught up in our own worlds. Not just those we see around town, waiting in line at the store or pass on the sidewalk — all of us. Families are not immune to this either. Many times we come together as a family and never share any information.
- Start Early – Not earlier in the day, but earlier in their lives. If you build a strong base for communication when they are young, it would likely last as they get older. Children are not born with the ability to communicate; it is something that must be learned as they grow. Teaching your children how to express themselves, talk about their thoughts and feelings, and be honest is part of being a parent.
- Listen Up – When your child wants to talk to you, put down whatever you are doing and pay attention to them. If they think you are interested in what they have to say, they will continue to share more with you. Try to avoid interrupting them or finishing their sentences as they need to find their own words to say what they feeling and thinking.
- Small Things – Don’t save up discussions to have drawn out, stressful family talks. Talk about everything. If you keep an open channel of communication with your children, keeping them informed of family issues and your personal feelings, it shows them everything is on the table for discussion.
- Be Encouraging – When your child chooses to open up to you, they should feel inspired or relieved. Children should know their parents won’t make them feel guilty or embarrassed when trying to work through a problem. Phrases such as “I’m proud of you,” “What a great idea” or other positive words should be used on a daily basis.
- Avoid Lectures – Don’t be afraid to give your opinion on the matter but try to avoid lectures. There is a time and a place for lectures and discipline; when you and your child are engaging in conversation, it may not be the best time for a lecture.
- Answer Questions – When your child has a question for you, avoid responses such as “I’ll tell you when you are older,” or “You shouldn’t ask me that.” Find a way to answer them truthfully. If you are dealing with a sticky subject, find a way to continue this conversation over time, giving them more details as they grow and understand more.
By establishing strong and deep communication with your child at an early age, you build the strength of your family. Communication goes both ways. Building trust and openness at an early age makes it much easier to share (both ways) as they get older. Being able to make good parenting decisions is based upon knowing what is happening in your child’s life. If your child is young or not so young anymore, continue to listen, talk and share information with one another. Your relationship will continue to grow and evolve with each passing day.