Communicating Well with Children

Communication – It’s More Than Just Talk

It can be said that communication skills are a priceless gift and can be compared to an open door. Yet for some, this door can feel closed and tightly sealed, especially when it comes to being heard by others. Communicating with your child or teen can be challenging and yet, there are so many important conversations you need to have with your kids throughout their lives. You will have to communicate with them about their responsibilities at home and school. Sometimes you need to have tough conversations about things like peer pressure, bullying, online safety, drugs and alcohol, and sex. In addition, you will need to communicate about topics outside of their control like violence in the world, events being reported in the news, or natural disasters. You may even need to communicate about how to communicate with others. No matter what, it is very important for parents to be able to communicate openly and effectively with their children because it strengthens the relationship between the parent and child and good communication skills will benefit them for their entire lives. On the other hand, communication between parents and children that is ineffective or negative can lead children to believe that they are unimportant, unheard, or misunderstood. Such children may also come to see their parents as unhelpful and untrustworthy. The video above shows two examples of parent-teen communication specifically regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is critical, we focus on our communications skills now, these tips can go beyond just talking about the pandemic. While this can all be difficult to navigate, here are some important factors to consider when communicating with your child or teen.

Learn How to Listen

Listening is more than just hearing words. Effective listening involves showing empathy (understanding and identifying what your child is going through). Pay attention to the body language of the speaker. Be present (put away electronics when someone is speaking). Show by presenting positive body language throughout the conversation.  It will let your child know that you care. Don’t interrupt.

When you speak avoid being judgmental or critical

Use your words to build up not to tear down. Allow the other person to speak. Really listen to your child and respond in a sensitive and caring manner to all things – not just the good but also to the not so good things like embarrassment, sadness and fear. 

Show empathy when speaking with kids and especially teens

Your kids are struggling just like you right now. Show you are thinking about their feelings and that you care. If might take admitting that you hadn’t thought about things from their perspective. Thank them for being open about how they feel.

Communicate at your children’s level

While communicating it is important to speak in terms that your children can understand – speak on their level.  Try to know what your children can comprehend and try not to communicate in ways that they are not able to understand. Remember children gain valuable language skills through communication.

Family meetings or times to talk

One very useful communication tool for families with older children is the regularly scheduled time to talk. Family meeting time can be used to air grievances and to talk about problems. These times can also be used to talk about positive things that have occurred. What’s important is that each family member be given time to talk and be heard by other family members.

Keep your voice calm

Make sure to keep a cool tone when talking with your children. This will help keep them calm and sound more empathetic towards your child’s needs. Even if your child starts to develop an attitude, make sure you keep your cool!

Overall, communication is the key to building a positive bond with your children.  It will also help parents understand their children better.  Showing your children that their thoughts and feelings are important will improve your communication with them.  Parents should remember that it is more important to understand than be understood so practice listening – your children will appreciate it. 

If you need support, please call our Parenting HelpLine: 1-800-243-7337


8 psychologist-backed tips for improving communication with children.

Communicating well with children: tips.

Communication and Your 4-to-5-Year Old.

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