When I was growing up, my family did not really communicate. Did yours?
Oh, we talked, a little bit, but that’s different from really communicating.
Since good communication is at the foundation of any close parent-child relationship, why don’t we explore ways to be effective in that area?
Most often, when we think of communication, we think of talking. It might come as a surprise, but that’s actually the least important aspect of communicating— 7% the experts tell us. The next 23% has to do with the tone, emotion, volume and intonation in our voice. The last 70% is the largest and most significant portion of communication—the non-verbal. This is our facial expressions, eye contact, posture and gestures, which speak the loudest and contain the real truth.
Communication is connection. Healthy families share feelings, thoughts and beliefs. Our children want to be heard and understood, so how do we let them know we really hear them and convey we understand what they’re trying to tell us?
This kind of connection begins at birth. The first thing an infant uses is his senses. The way you talk to your infant as he coos at you, the way you look into his eyes and the way you smile at him are all ways that let him know you’re listening. Genuine listening is giving him your full attention. To be emotionally present means that we listen with our whole being…ears, eyes, face, body and heart. You are communicating to him how valuable he is to you. Isn’t it amazing that we can tell our infants how much we love them with our faces?
If we want our kids to share their hearts with us, they must feel secure in the parent-child relationship. We can build trust by really listening. To really listen means we don’t criticize, judge or shame. We simply listen and then reflect and validate what they said. Your child says he hates school and all of the work his teacher makes him do. A response might be “you seem pretty angry about what happened at school today.”
Does listening like this mean we agree with what is being said? Not necessarily. All it means is that I hear you and I understand. Being open-minded and sensitive to others thoughts, feelings and beliefs demonstrates we get it.
Being available, on their terms, is something many parents struggle with. We tend to want our kids to talk when it’s convenient for us. It doesn’t work that way, especially for teens.
When your children do confide in you, listen carefully and then offer them words that encourage and lift them up. “I know you will figure it out.”
What says to our kids we’re not listening? A lot, but I’ll just list a few: fiddling around with electronics, multitasking, watching TV, interrupting them while they are trying to tell us something, lecturing and nagging when they’re sharing with us, not making eye contact with them, acting bored or telling them to hurry up and get to the point, interrogating and putting them on the hot seat, asking questions and asking “why” are sure-fire ways to shut a kiddo down. Are you ever guilty of any of these?
Give some thought to your family’s communication style. Decide if there are things you need to change. If you desire a closeness and connectedness with your kids and if you want them to feel free to talk to you about matters large and small, encourage your family to communicate in ways that convey respect, love and acceptance.
There’s Always Hope,
Need more help? Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?” While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services. Click Here to learn more.