How to Open the Door to Communication with Your Kids
Most parents feel they don’t spend enough time with their kids. Between the responsibilities of work and home, it’s easy to get stressed and miss those important moments. But despite life’s interference, it is possible to stay in touch with your children by keeping the lines of communication open from day to day. The key is to talk honestly, talk often, and teach your children the art of positive and open communication.
The Benefits of Good Communication
Every year on December 5, we recognize and celebrate National Communicate with Your Kids Day to spread awareness about the importance of communicating with children. However, we recognize that parents need to have an open and loving relationship with their kids all year long.
Learning good communication skills is vital. From the time they’re born, youngsters learn how to communicate to get their needs met. They cry as babies, talk back as toddlers and teenagers, talk often with their peers in all stages of growth, and learn to negotiate as adults. Because of this, the more they perfect communication skills, the more successful in life they are likely to become.
Parents who keep the lines of communication open with their children also tend to enjoy great rapport with them. This is because honest, open communication sends a strong message to kids. It lets them know you value their thoughts, opinions and feelings; that what they think matters, and that you’re always there for them. As a result, kids feel loved, valued and respected – which reflects positively in their actions and attitudes.
Developing good communication skills in your children takes some work. But it’s so worthwhile! By modeling for your kids what you’d like to see in them, you’ll reap numerous benefits. First, you’ll teach them how to communicate with others. Second, you’ll help shape their emotional development. Third, you’ll set them on the path to building great relationships during their lifetime.
Good communication skills are also one of the most desired attributes for employers. Children whose parents teach them to communicate well with others make much better employees and coworkers as adults. Therefore, they’re much more valued in their jobs when they’re grown.
Ways to Communicate Successfully with Kids
If, like most parents, you’d like to communicate better with your kids but you’re not sure how to go about it, we’ve got you covered. Try these tips to open up the lines of communication, improve your relationships with your children, and better prepare them for success in life.
Establish regular talk time with your kids. For some families, this means conversing every evening. For others, every few days, or even once a week may suffice. Seek your children’s input on timing and frequency.
- Listen to What They Have to Say
Show you’re listening by making eye contact, nodding occasionally letting them speak without interruption.
- Pay Attention to What They Say, What They Don’t Say and Their Body Language
Ask questions to help clarify your understanding and show them that you care.
- Respect Their Feelings
Even if you can’t relate to what they’re saying, respect their feelings and never shame them for feeling that way.
- Use Positive Language
Frame your responses in a positive light. Great communication includes statements like “I never thought of it that way,” “Thank you for bringing that up,” or “I’m not sure I understand…can you please explain it to me?”
- Watch Your Tone of Voice
Be careful of the way you say things. There’s no better way to ruin hearty communication than negating positive words with a negative tone.
What are your kids doing after school? Who are they talking to? Are they participating in after-school activities or just hanging out with friends? Who do they tell their deepest secrets to? What are they learning in school?
Having this type of information on hand gives you a basis for conversation. Foremost, it helps you assess how your children are feeling, what they’re doing with those feelings, and what type of people they seek relationships with. Additionally, it helps you determine what interests they’re developing and how they’re changing as they mature. In turn, you can then use that information to start meaningful conversations that promote good communication skills.
Ask for Their Thoughts & Opinions
Talk to your children about current events. Watch the news together and ask for their thoughts and opinions. Afterward, share yours and find commonalities and differences. This allows you the opportunity to glimpse inside their minds, get their perspective on things, and find out what they’re thinking. Additionally, it helps you get to know who they are and who they are becoming. Finally, it communicates to your children that you value their opinions – even if they’re different from your own.
Kids who learn to self-advocate can make their needs known in a calm and respectful way.
Teach your kids how to ask for what they need. First, demonstrate through your own words and deeds how to do that most effectively. Second, show them how to use appropriate language, vocabulary and tone of voice. Third, role play interaction with others using good communication skills. Talking about how your kids make requests and receive feedback helps expose kids to multiple points of view.
In addition, teach your children how to handle disappointment when they don’t get what they need. Show them how to ask questions and disagree without arguing. They’ll better see and understand the perspectives of others, and learn to solve problems by talking them out.
Make Sure They Know You’re Available
Make it clear to your kids, in both words and actions, that you are always there for them. Even if you can’t stop to talk right away, let them know you will make time for them later – and follow through on that promise.
If your kids come to you asking for input, that’s an excellent sign! It means they are willing to listen, value your perspective, and desire to work through their problems the best way possible. In fact, being willing to share their concerns, struggles and celebrations shows you’re doing a great job at communication as a parent. Just be there to hear them out, talk often and provide a sounding board when they need one.
Call & Check In
Kids without parental supervision sometimes end up in compromising situations. If you’re a working parent and your youngsters spend time home alone, call them every couple of hours just to check in (depending on their age, of course). Ask how their day is going, what they enjoyed most about school today, or what they plan to do when they finish their homework. Try to draw them out by tapping into their interests.
Most of all, know what your kids are doing, and have a plan in place when you can’t be home with them. Allow children to call and talk if they need to, and keep in touch so they know when to expect you home. Keeping the lines of communication open through frequent check-ins helps ensure everyone’s safety. Once you arrive, share your day with them and encourage them to do the same.
Take Them Out on “Dates”
This one throws some parents for a loop. However, taking your kids out on regular dates, one at a time, shows them you value time alone with just them. It also provides uninterrupted time for communication, during which you can find out what’s going on in their lives and show them how much you care.
Within reason, let each child decide where they’d like to go and what they’d like to do on your dates. Encourage them to choose something they enjoy, whether dinner, a cultural activity, a sporting event or a movie. Talk about what they chose and why. As you enjoy each event together, talk often and openly, sharing your thoughts and feelings and asking your child to share theirs. You might be surprised how much they’ll open up!
Stay Involved in Their Lives
Finally, stay in touch with other adults and children in your kids’ lives. Get to know their teachers and friends. Seek guidance and information about your youngsters from these significant others, who may spend large chunks of time with them. If you run into a problem with your child, other people who know them well may have some insight that could help.
Knowing you care enough to be involved in the details of their lives means a lot to your kids as they become young adults.
Communication: It’s a Two-Way Street
Sometimes, we all feel as if we’re missing out on our kids’ lives. With everyone going in so many different directions, it can be difficult to stay connected. Nevertheless, finding ways to communicate with our children amidst the chaos binds us together and cements lasting relationships.
Set aside some time to communicate with your kids as often as possible. The rewards you’ll both reap will be worth it all.