Communicating with your child should be one of the greatest parts of parenting, yet many parents struggle to know how and when to communicate. They find their questions are met with one-word, pat answers, or that their attempts to offer advice are met with rebuttal and responses of "You just don't get it!" from their kids. If you are finding it difficult to communicate effectively with your children, no matter what their age, the right communication tools might help.
According to KidsHealth.org, books can be a valuable communication tool. Reading a book with your child and then discussing what you read can foster interactive communication. It brings a shared experience to the table and a starting point for a conversation. This does not have to stop when the kids can read for themselves, either. Parents can read with older kids, alternating who does the reading, or parent and child can read a book independently and then come together to discuss it.
Listening is a key component to communication. The American Psychological Association recommends stopping what you are doing completely to listen to your child when she presents a concern. Let your child complete the story or idea before you respond, as this will show you are listening. As you listen, try to understand the situation from your child's point of view. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends restating what the child has told you as a way to show that you are listening, and to get clarification when needed. To do this, say, "So you are telling me that John took your ball and it made you feel angry."
Children want to be understood, and using empathy when speaking to your child will help show you care and will help elicit a positive response from the child. The American Psychological Association recommends that parents use phrases like "I understand that that hurt you," or "I know you disagree with me." This type of emphatic communication shows you care about your child's feelings more than your own, and it will encourage further communication from your child.
Questions, when used properly, can spark conversation. Most parents have experienced the short, one-word answer of "fine" to their question of "how was your day?" Instead of these vague questions, get specific. Ask questions that encourage sharing, explanation and description, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. For example, ask, "What was your favorite thing that happened today?" or "What happened that made you laugh today?" These questions will bring deeper answers and open the door for communication.
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