Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Parents: 5 Hints to Better Communication!

As a mom of teenagers and young adults, I recognize the importance of communication.  Communication with teenagers often times allows a parent to guide teens into making better choices, or finding a voice when confronted with conflict, or advocating for themselves when negotiating with a teacher, coach or boss.  In short, having open lines of communication between you and your teenagers is imperative, and those lines begin their formation when your child is young.

So here are a few tips to help parents maximize the formation of good communication between you and your child--no matter what their age.  The earlier you practice these, the better!

1.  Good Listening is Key:  Often times, we don't listen enough.  When our children talk to us we immediately begin to interrupt and chime in with our opinions or criticisms.  Children will only continue to talk to an adult who actively listens to them.  So practice being quiet and really listening when your child has something to share with you.

2.  Eliminate Distractions:  When your child wants to talk to you, nothing should be more important.  Put down your cellphone, turn away from the computer, mute the television.  Show with your body language and your eye contact that you are tuned in and attentive.

3.  Search and Discover Effective Environments:  As anyone of multiple children knows, all children are very different!  So try to figure out what environment allows each of your children to open up and talk.  Recently my preschoolers took a walk together, and a little boy who is as quiet as a mouse in the classroom, talked the entire way around the block.  Kids have preferences about where and when they talk.  It may be when riding in the car, or laying in their bed before falling asleep.  Maybe they come home from school ready to talk, or maybe they need time to relax but like talking at dinner.  Sometimes all it takes is a mug of hot chocolate!  Anywhere and anytime, your job as their loving parent is to encourage them to open up to you as a willing and ready listener.

4.  Don't Embarrass Them:  A common mistake of parents is to overshare with others information that they hear from their children.  If your child thinks that anything he/she says to you may be broadcasted to the world, they will opt to not share much.  Kids are very sensitive to this and respect a parent who can keep things within the house and not advertise everything to the neighborhood.

5.  Trust is Imperative:  Just as any parent wants to trust in their children, children want to trust that you keep your word.  If you make it common practice to call teachers or other parents about issues, even when you told your child you would not, you are risking their trust in you.  At times, you will have to step in to situations, but first make sure that your child is aware of what you plan to do and don't play the roulette game of telling him/her one thing and behaving differently.

These five tips, when practiced consistently will allow the communication between you and your child to grow and blossom into a beautiful relationship that will serve you both in the years to come.

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