Effective communication is the basic building block for strong family relationships. From the minute that babies begin to utter sounds, they are learning how to communicate. They are learning how to get the attention of others and how to get their message across. From interactions with others (adults and children) they learn that communication is a two-way street. Parents are children’s first teachers of effective communication skills.
- It’s important to monitor our non-verbal signals when communicating with children. Our facial expression, eye contact, and body position communicate how involved or interested we are in what they have to say. Do we have a scowl or a smile on our face, is our body facing them or facing away while we do something else? Are we towering over them, or at the same eye level?
- Have meaningful conversations. Make time to talk with your child. What works for your family? Many parents make time to talk in the car while driving children from one activity to another. Dinner time and bedtime are other opportunities to listen to and talk with children. Try making a date with your child to spend one-on-one time.
- Ask open ended questions. When asking children questions, try to ask questions that cannot be answered with one or two words. “What went well today? What challenged you today?”
- Listen for feelings. Listen for the feelings underneath the content. “Are you feeling frustrated or disappointed?” “It sounds like you felt sad.” “Wow – you sound excited”. “It sounds like you feel ____ because_____ and you wish______.”
- Invite expression of feelings using ‘I’ messages, rather than blaming statements. “I feel ______when _______because ______.”
- Be careful about using electronics. Your child notices when you are looking at your phone or computer instead of him or her. Those devices are designed to be seductive and it can be hard to put yours away. Be intentional about modeling human to human connection. You are helping your child grow important brain connections with every interaction.