Improving Communication with your Child/Teen
As you spend more and more time at home with your children, you may find it challenging at time to communicate effectively with them. Whether they are preschoolers or high school seniors, it is important to learn ways to engage in effective communication throughout the lifespan.
For elementary aged students, try to spend at least 5-10 minutes playing with your child each day. Playing with your child allows you to focus on their positive behaviors and build a strong relationship with them. Use this time to:
a. Encourage creativity.
b. Focus on and praise their positive behaviors to build a strong relationship with them
c. Reflect your child’s words and emotions
d. Limit questions, directions and criticisms
e. Ignore minor misbehaviors
Starting off with only 5-10 minutes allows parents to easily fit this into their daily routine or schedule. At times, it can even be challenging to maintain patience with a child after a long work day or busy schedules. Starting with small periods of time and slowly increasing the limit gives you the opportunity to make play time as positive as possible for everyone involved.
Communicating with teenagers can also present its own challenges. They are constantly changing and require flexibility from their caregivers. Teenagers are best supported when they feel comfortable coming to you with any problems they are having, engaging in open communication. This can be encouraged by:
a. Being genuinely interested about what your child is talking about by asking questions and reflecting
b. Giving them your undivided attention. If you are unable to give them your undivided attention in the moment, it is better to set up a time to speak later than to be distracted in the moment. They will appreciate you acknowledging that you truly want to be able to listen to them rather than only hearing part of what they are saying
c. Showing empathy. While it may have been some time ago, remember when you were a teenager. Put yourself in their shoes as much as possible and imagine what you would want to hear if you were them
d. Avoid instructions or unsolicited advice. While there are circumstances where they may be coming to you for advice, do not provide it unless they ask. Just be there for them and listen to what they have to say
e. Find a quiet place for important conversations. If you know your child wants to speak to you about something important, don’t take them out to dinner. Set up some quality time where the two of you can focus on each other without worrying about distractions or eavesdroppers.