Can you hear me? Are you even listening? These are questions we may ask ourselves while communicating with our children, significant others, friends, and even the cashier at the grocery store. Communication refers to the process in which one person conveys information to another person. Information can be shared through verbal dialogue or non-verbal communication. While we know our words are important, non-verbal communication is responsible for up to 93% of conversation messages. This statistic indicates self-awareness of your own communication style and skills are vital in establishing and, ultimately, strengthening your relationships.
Communication self-awareness is essential in all relationships; however, establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with children through communication can be particularly challenging. Relationships between parents and their children can benefit greatly by emphasizing effective communication daily. Here are some tips on how to implement effective communication for you and your child(ren):
- Be genuine and speak from your heart. Communication is a two way street! It is important that parents show vulnerability regarding their own feelings and needs. This gives children the opportunity to learn from their parents and create an open and honest dialogue in their relationship.
- Pay attention to non-verbal messages.
- Be aware of your tone of voice. How something is said is often more important than what is said.
- Make and maintain eye contact as much as possible while respecting the child’s comfort level. Our eyes really can be the window to our souls. By focusing on your child’s eyes, you will be more likely to interpret their feelings or emotions accurately and effectively show you are paying attention to your child and their needs.
- Start conversations at eye-level with your child. For instance, if they are sitting on the floor, sit down with them. Your posture and gestures can send strong messages to children. For instance, if a parent is standing above a child when speaking their statements may seem threatening or uninviting to the child.
- Listen with a closed mouth. This will limit interruptions when your child is talking. You can offer non-verbal encouragement through smiling and other facial expressions to show you are actively engaged in communication.
- Let your child know they have been heard.
- Summarize what you hear back to your child in order to ensure you heard what they intended to say.
- Feel free to ask questions about their story or statements. These questions offer children an opportunity to see you are engaged and care about what they are saying.
- Keep conversations brief.
- Have shorter conversations more often with your child.
- If addressing an issue, have an initial conversation and schedule a time for you and your child to come back to the issue after calming down and preparing for the follow-up conversation.
- Use communication builders/boosters like the ones below to open lines of communication:
- “I’d like to hear more about that!”
- “What did you think about…?”
- “That’s really interesting. Will you say more?”
- “I’m confused. Will you explain that to me?”
Effective and open communication takes time to establish, especially with children! However, by increasing your self-awareness and focusing on your verbal and non-verbal communication daily, you will create a habit of being active in your conversations. The result will be a closer and positive relationship between you and your child.
This blog was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Katie Davis, LBSW.
Elsevier B.V. (2021) Nonverbal Communication. Science Direct. Retrieved from https://sciencedirect.com/topics/social-services/nonverbal-communication
Sheafor, B.W., & Horejsi, C.R. (2008) Techniques and Guidelines for Social Work Practice (Eighth Edition), Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Zolten, K. & Long, N. (2006) Parent/Child Communication. Center for Effective Parenting. Retrieved from https://parenting-ed.org/wp-content/themes/parenting-ed/files/handouts/communication-parent-to-child.pdf