Every parent wants a strong relationship with their children. Communication is the foundation of every strong relationship – including the relationship with your children. The secret to establishing a good foundation of communication is nurturing relationships when things are not complete chaos. Just like the other relationships in your life, both individuals should participate and make an effort. With children, participation can be complicated; however, parents can teach their children the best practices of communication by displaying those qualities and actions themselves.
If you want to improve your communication skills with your children, here is what we recommend trying:
Create talking rituals.
In the morning, greet your children with an upbeat greeting, and discuss what they must do for the rest of the day. Even if you and your child are not morning people, it is important to engage with each other and play active roles. Offer advice or a reassuring affirmation if your child is anxious about a test or needs to practice for an upcoming game. Ask questions and show an interest in your child’s schedule. A positive morning will create a great start for everyone.
If you’re still working, when your child arrives home from school, consider calling and checking in to see how their school day went. If your child is not accessible, check in with them when you get home and ask about their day. Parents, if you feel like your conversations are monotonous, think about incorporating different questions, such as:
- What is one new thing you learned today?
- What was the best part of your day? (Lunch doesn’t count!)
- What would you like to do this evening?
Lastly, close the night with a conversation or time together. Your conversation can be watching TV together or even swinging on the porch swing. Be present and unwind together. Say goodnight to your children and instill a bedtime routine. Even though your children may have outgrown storytime, it could be fun to unwind together by reading a shared book as a family or playing a game. It’s up to you to just be together.
Encourage emotional maturity by talking about your feelings.
Adults take for granted that their children automatically know how to relay their thoughts and feelings. If you evaluate your relationships, as an adult, you’ll realize expressing your emotions is harder than it sounds. When your child is frustrated, ask them how they feel and help them differentiate between the various emotions. For smaller children, having a chart available to use as a reference can be helpful. Ask smaller children to point to the emotion they are feeling. For example, frustration and disappointment can feel strangely similar; however, when you discuss those feelings out loud, it is easier to distinguish the differences.
Parents, when you are frustrated with a situation, calmly share your feelings and reasoning with your children. Not only will your children appreciate your honesty, they’ll be able to emulate your expression when they are experiencing those similar feelings and emotions.
The reality is your children are not always going to want your advice, but sharing advice is a big part of parenting. Be proactive with your advice and offer it to your child in an organic way. If you’re watching a show and the cast is reflecting on a relatable situation, speak up and share a moment in your life that is relatable. Or if your child’s friend is experiencing something you have went through, talk about your situation and how you developed a resolution. If you sprinkle in advice when your child isn’t necessarily in need, when your child faces a difficult situation, they will have a general understanding of how to handle and overcome the challenge.
Often, parents push back and don’t share the gritty details with their children. In some cases, this is perfectly fine, but in others, it is not. By choosing not to be vulnerable with your children, parents are essentially crippling the development of their children’s emotional development.
For parents, it is important not to be robotic. Crying in front of your children and showing real emotions will help your children understand that showing emotions is perfectly normal and acceptable. There will be times when parents feel the urge to shelter their children; however, in many cases, being vulnerable will strengthen your bond with your children and help them better understand how to express themselves. It’s okay not to have all of the answers; in many instances, your honesty is enough for your children.
Be intentional and make time.
Being intentional means carving out time for your children. If you have multiple children, try to have one on one time with your children individually. Having time separately will help your child feel important and allow them to speak freely.
Making time for your children doesn’t need to be expensive. Intentional ways you can show up for your children might look like a walk in the morning or evening, baking or cooking together, taking turns reading a book, watching a movie, going to the farmer’s market, or participating in a shared hobby together. Talk with your child and decide on your activity together – this way, they feel involved.
Strong communication skills will go a long with your children. It is important to be proactive and understand that you must invest time to build upon strong communication – these ideals are not developed overnight and not perfected when you’re experiencing turmoil. Establishing communication is a group effort that you must teach your child to participate in. Just like any relationship, there will be days when you and/or your child are struggling, but if you pledge to never give up, everyone will relish in the benefits of having a healthy and happy relationship.