It Takes Two: Comunicating with Your Child
Do you ever feel like you and your child are speaking two different languages? If so, you aren't alone. Many parents struggle to communicate with their child. Even adults who work with children every day—teachers, coaches, or club leaders—sometimes need some communication tips.
Many times adults confuse communication with telling a child what to do. Telling a child to do his homework or get more sleep isn't really communication. It's important information that your child needs, but it's lacking an important part of communication. It's lacking the two-way exchange of feelings and ideas. True communication takes two people. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, "Healthy communication—the kind that builds a strong two-way bridge—is crucial in helping your child develop a healthy personality and good relationships with you and others. It gives your child a chance to become a happy, safe, healthy person, no matter what happens."
So you know it's important, but how do you it? Effective communication between parents and children is not always easy. Children and adults have different communication styles and different ways of responding in a conversation. In addition, timing and place can determine how successful communication will be. Parents should make time to talk with their children in a quiet, unhurried manner. It's also important that parents be ready to listen whenever their child wants to talk, even it it's an inconvenient time. The following tips are designed to make communication more successful.
- Stop what you are doing and pay attention.
- Don't interrupt.
- Don't prepare what you will say while your child is speaking.
- Reserve judgment until your child has finished and has asked you for a response.
- Be aware of your child's facial expression and body language. Is your child nervous or uncomfortable—frowning, drumming fingers, tapping a foot, looking at the clock? Or does your child seem relaxed—smiling, looking you in the eyes? Reading these signs will help you know how your child is feeling.
- During the conversation, acknowledge what your child is saying—move your body forward if you are sitting, touch a shoulder if you are walking, or nod your head and make eye contact.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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