As parents, we talk with our children every single day — but the question is are we truly communicating with them? Studies show that communicating with our children right from birth is critical for development. And most of us find that as our children get older, communication becomes more strained. Asking your teenager how their day was and hearing “fine” in return is not a conversation — nor is having only text conversations. And since we tend to be on our devices more than we should, we’re missing out on important opportunities to communicate with our children. Few things are more valuable to your child (of any age) than the chance to talk with one of their parents.
Here are some tips for healthy parent–child communication.
Put Your Devices Down & Listen
Whenever you have a conversation with your child — even if it’s just a casual chat — turn off the TV and other distractions and don’t look at your phone if it goes off. Show your child that you’re giving them your attention and not feel like they’re competing with something or someone else.
Respond in a Sensitive Way
Really listen to what your child has to say and respond in a way that provides them comfort and validates their feelings. If they’ve done something wrong, resist getting angry. Provide some feedback and help them come up with a solution on how to right that wrong and set a fair punishment, if needed. The same goes for if they’re sharing something embarrassing. Instead of laughing or trying to one-up their story, it’s best to first respond by validating their emotions, such as “That does sound embarrassing.” Or “I understand why you’re upset.”
By not resorting to yelling or other insensitive behaviour, your child is much more likely to share their problems with you in the future. Understanding the Dolphin Kids™ K.E.Y.S. is an excellent place to start learning how to put yourself in your kids shoes and empathize more with what they’re going through.
When our children start to walk, talk, read, and write, we tend to shower them with praise. But when our teenagers do something new, we often pass the praise quickly — and sometimes, not at all. Although your teenager may say they don’t care what you think, they do. They like and want to hear that you’re proud of them. Look for opportunities to provide encouragement (just don’t gush too much) for what they’re doing. They’ll start to want to share their achievements with you more.
Don’t Give Them All the Answers
It’s essential for your kids to feel comfortable enough to come to you with their problems. However, if you always take the reins and solve all their problems, they’ll never learn how to solve problems themselves. Help them come up with solutions and talk ideas through.
This will give them the skills they need in the future while continuing to come to you as they trust your guidance.
Share Regular Family Meals
Families who dine together on a regular basis typically communicate better. Even if it’s only once or twice a week, make a firm date for the entire family to get together and share a meal where everyone sits at the table and all devices are off. This opens up the lines of communication and provides an opportunity for everyone to share their ups and downs of the week.
Know the Right Time & Place
As kids get older, they may be more embarrassed and reluctant to share their problems with you by actually sitting down and talking. However, they may be more likely to open up if they don’t feel like they’re being ambushed. A lot of teenagers will communicate more while commuting in the car or helping do the dishes rather than in a face-to-face conversation. Use opportunities like these to start chatting to your teenager.Healthy communication shouldn’t be hard, but it does take some thought to make sure your kids are feeling heard and willing to open up these lines of communication with you. If you’re looking for more ways to communicate and increase your chances of raising healthy, happy, strong, motivated kids, check out the workshops and programs Dolphin Kids has to offer.