Frederick's Child Magazine - Feb-Mar 2013

Eight Simple Tools For Effective Parent-Child Communication

L. Alexandra Mirabelli 2013-01-18 00:19:32

Good communication between parents and children is a cornerstone of a healthy parent-child relationship. A mutual bond between parent and child which includes trust, respect, and openness will also promote the child’s self-esteem, confidence, and relationships. Some of the ways to help foster good parentchild communication include: 1. Prioritization. Setting aside some one-on-one time each day, even if only for a few minutes, to engage a child in conversation can go a long way. The earlier this becomes a part of the normal routine, the better; but it is never too late to start. The important thing is for natural and open conversation between parent and child to become second nature. This time should be child-directed, meaning that the parent responds to the topics brought up by the child.This contributes to their selfesteem and confidence. 2. Active Listening. For most of us, problem-solving is second nature. In parentchild communication, this often means offering advice or a solution. Active listening is a communication tool which refers to listening, understanding, and interpreting what you hear, rather than offering advice. Active listening encourages children to process their own experiences without judgment. Children, like adults, sometimes simply want somebody to listen. 3. Positive Communication.Positive communication is often met with a more positive response, and less resistance, than negative communication.This does not mean that parents should give in to the child’s every whim, but if there is a way To say “yes,” rather than “no,” try to do it. For example, if your child asks to go play outside before she has done a chore you have asked her to do, rather than responding with, “No. Not until you brush your teeth and make your bed like I asked,” try something like, “Of course.You can play outside right after you finish brushing your teeth and making your bed.” While positive communication does not guarantee a positive response, it does give the child a sense of working toward a goal. 4. Simple and Specific Instructions. When giving instructions, it is helpful to keep it as simple as possible.Even something as simple as, “Get ready for bed,” can be overwhelming for some children. Giving one or two simple and specific instructions such as, “Put on your pajamas, then brush your teeth,” leaves no room for confusion. 5. Role Modeling. Children will ultimately model what they see their parents do, and this includes the way they communicate with others.Using good communication skills, social skills, and manners whether at the store, on the phone, in public, or at home will set an excellent example for the child to follow. 6. Open-ended Questioning. If you are like most parents, you have felt the frustration of asking your child a question and receiving little or no information. Asking open ended questions or making open-ended statements such as, “Tell me the best part of your day,” rather than closed-Ended questions such as, “How was your day?” invites the child to share more than a simple one-word response. 7. Consistency. Parents who are consistent with rules and routines at home experience less resistance from their children than those who provide inconsistent expectations for behavior. Of course, changes in routines and rules are often necessary to accommodate the unexpected things which arise in life. 8. Acceptance. Behavior, especially negative behavior, can be frustrating and confusing. It is helpful to keep in mind that all behavior has a purpose, and finding out what the purpose is will help parents deal with it more effectively. Identifying the situation (e.g., “I see you are very upset right now,”) rather than simply trying to put a stop to the behavior (e.g., “Stop crying,”) is a good way for parents to communicate that their child’s feelings are important, and that they understand that there are feelings underneath the behavior. Many of these communication tools come naturally to most, while some take practice. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and it is actually good for children to see their parents make mistakes. This helps them understand that nobody is perfect and that mistakes can be dealt with. Good communication between parent and child will benefit every member of the family, as well as help the child foster positive relationships outside the family. Sometimes persistent behavior problems can indicate a more serious issue. If behavior problems are preventing a child from succeeding academically, socially, or from enjoying a positive family relationship, professional consultation may be warranted. Dr. Alexandra Mirabelli is a clinical psychologist providing testing and therapy to children and adults at Frederick Psychology Center in Frederick.

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