How Can I Improve Communication with My Child?
Having good communication with your child is a crucial part of having a positive relationship. Kids want to feel heard by their loved ones! But helping your child gain the courage to talk to you about what is going on can be complicated, especially if you feel like you are lacking communication skills. For many, communication can seem like a daunting task, creating internal questions like, “What do I even say?”, “How do I phrase that?”, or “Will they even understand?”
Often, parents or caregivers are the first line of support and communication when something has happened to a child. As a result, parents want to be able to show their support and let their child know that they are there to listen. But knowing just how to do that can be challenging. Although many of us do it in one form or another every day, communication is complex. It is expressed both verbally and non-verbally. Things like our tone of voice, our rate of speech, even the faces we make all contribute to what we are communicating.
Listed below are a few tips parents can use to help improve their communication skills, especially with their child:
Active listening means giving our full attention when another person is speaking to us. This can be helpful when speaking with anyone but especially with children. Active listening can include getting down on the child’s level, making eye contact, stopping whatever task we are doing, nodding or engaging in other behaviors that show we are listening, and being aware of what facial expressions we are making. Engaging in these small acts help a child know that we care about what they are saying and that we are capable of taking the time to listen to what they have to say.
Make Them Feel Safe and Heard
Sometimes children may feel afraid to approach their parents or caregivers when they need help, advice, or a shoulder to cry on. We want children to know that they can come to us with anything they need. So, it is important to assure them that they won’t be in trouble for telling us, and that even if they did something they weren’t supposed to, we appreciate that they came to us first. Children also want to be sure they are heard. Following through with promises made or expressing that you want to continue the conversation again can let them know that you value what they said.
Be Genuine/Be You
Parents and caregivers are models for communication for their children. Children often look up to them as examples of how they should communicate with others and express themselves. They can tell if we aren’t being open or true to ourselves when having a conversation with them. When we are genuine, they typically feel comfortable enough to be genuine too.
It is also important to share our own feelings with children. Because we are examples for them, talking about how things make us feel or our thoughts about the conversation can help to model expression. When doing this, we want to ensure that we are still practicing active listening by allowing the child to finish what they need to say before we jump in with our own thoughts and feelings.
Praise and Appreciation
As sources of support, we want to give praise to children for expressing themselves and communicating with us. This can show them they are valued and reinforce this positive behavior. Telling children, “Thank you for sharing with me,” “I appreciate you telling me this,” or “it was very brave of you to talk about your feelings” are some examples of things you can say during a conversation.
Improve Your Communication with Counseling!
Overall, as parents, we want to provide a safe space for our children to feel seen, heard, and appreciated, so they can continue to communicate with us. After trying some of these tips, we may still experience some difficulty with communication with children. There are different avenues of support for improving relationships and communication with our children, such as speaking with a licensed counselor with knowledge in this topic. There is no judgement when we need a little extra support!
If you are interested in speaking with a counselor or starting counseling services for yourself, your child, or your family, Symmetry Counseling provides services for individuals, couples, or families. We offer a variety of online counseling services, ensuring that no matter your needs, we can help. If you would like to schedule a virtual therapy appointment for yourself or for your child, we’d love to hear from you. For more information, contact our intake department today to be connected with a counselor.
CDC. (2019, November 5). Active listening. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/communication/activelistening.html
McCubbin, L. D., Smith, S. S., Schiller, L., Adler, A. J., & Marti, D. C. (2020, August 9).
Talking to kids when they need help. American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/parenting/helping-kids
Zolten, K., & Long, N. (2006). Communication parent to child – center for effective parenting. Center for Effective Parenting. Retrieved 2022, from https://parenting-ed.org/wp-content/themes/parenting-ed/files/handouts/communication-parent-to-child.pdf
Zoe Mittman, LSW Growing up, you may have imagined your 20s to be filled with excitement, love and adventures. But life happens and reality sinks in. Your life is not what you imagined. It is complex. Filled with both pain…Read More
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