We all know that communication is incredibly important to making sure your family works well. Communication can even help combat negative behaviors, but how do you get communication back or ensure it remains open? Below are my Top 10 tips:
1. Listen first. Here’s the thing, we all want this in life. We all want to feel like we’re heard. That’s not too much to ask is it? Unfortunately, though, our children’s vocabulary isn’t the same as ours. Their brains aren’t fully developed yet, either. What this means is that what they say and what they mean may be two different things. If we’re able to really listen to them and make an effort to understand by asking questions and being engaged in conversation, we will be doing what we want ourselves, trying to hear them.
2. Remove distractions. This goes with listening. In today’s day and age, we’re busy on our smartphones or tablets, watching the news or cooking dinner and our children are trying to talk to us. Being conscious of how much time we are present with our children can go a long way in making sure we are listening when they talk to us.
3. Ask questions. Here’s a scenario that happens in a lot of homes. Your child comes home from school. You ask how their day was. They reply with a single-word phrase – ‘fine’, ‘good’, ‘OK’. We may ask, “What does that mean?” Your child replies with a few extra highlights from their day and we leave it at that. What if the next time we get those highlights from them, we ask questions about those highlights? “How did you handle that?” “Wow, that’s interesting, who else was there?” If we ask them questions to show interest in the small things, how much more willing will they be to open up later when the big things arise?
4. Talk to them. We get so caught up in learning everything about their lives that we forget to tell them about ours! It’s a two-way street. Obviously there are things kids just don’t need to know, but why can’t they hear about issues you face at work, or funny stories from your day? If you’re willing to share and open up a little, that can help them open up and share with you, too.
5. Have dinner together at least once/week. Where do most conversations happen? In the kitchen (or dining room, if you have one). When there’s food in front of you, it makes it easier to break the ice and start talking. Bonus points if you let your child in on the planning of your weekly dinner. Take turns, “travel” to different countries, try new foods, or cook together. All of these help build an open relationship and it’s just plain fun.