Parenting Tips

October 2010

Does your family regularly get together to you regularly get together to talk about problems or the day’s events? Or do you just nod to one another as you pass in the hallway? Conversation is the key to any strong relationship, but it’s a must for family communication. Try implementing these simple tips to improve your family’s communication skills.

Create opportunities for talking. It’s no secret that Americans are overworked, overcommitted and overscheduled. Parents rush home from work to take their kids to piano lessons, sports practice, and scout meetings. Then, they grab a pizza for a rushed dinner. Nowadays, kids would rather text their friends than chat with Mom or Dad. That’s why we have a family communication crisis.

What to do? Make time for talking by reducing the number of activities your family is involved in each week − the time it frees up for communication will be invaluable. And if you do find yourself in the car running from place to place, make a point to turn off the radio, the cell phones and the personal game players, and use that opportunity to catch up on the day’s activities.

Insist on family meals. In addition to bringing everyone together for a wrap-up of the day’s activities, insisting on sitting at the table and enjoying family meals as often as possible creates a ritual and routine that kids come to expect and look forward to. The dinner table time is an opportunity to share what’s going on in family members’ lives.

Remember the 80/20 rule. Trying to improve a relationship? Listening is far more important than talking. So when it comes to family communication, listen four times longer than you speak. Also, think twice before you speak. Sometimes a parent’s first reaction is to rant and scream, especially to negative news. Do your best to avoid this, and if you do verbally explode before your child is finished, apologize quickly and assure him/her that you’re now ready to listen.

Use technology to your advantage. Since we use the family computer(s) for homework duties or surfing the Web, why not also use it to create a family newsletter that you publish just for your immediate family monthly? Everyone in the family can contribute "articles" and information about themselves, and then print out a copy for each person and hand deliver it.

Or maybe you could create a family Web site or blog. This would be especially helpful to families that find keeping in touch more difficult as the kids grow up and move away. Or put your texting abilities to work to let your loved ones know you’re thinking about them. For instance, if your son is facing a big test one afternoon, send him a text message at lunch to wish him well.

Create family traditions. Tucking the kids into bed at night, attending services and creating special holiday treats are all examples of family traditions. Family members come to expect and appreciate these traditions, seeing them as opportunities to come together as a unit. If your family is short on traditions, there’s no reason you can’t start some now. Why not grow a family flower or vegetable garden or visit the same spot every year for summer vacation?

Maintaining positive family communications will allow children to feel comfortable sharing their problems with parents, reducing the risk of peers having an undue influence on their lives. Parents, who remain connected and intimate with each other and their children, strengthen family bonds. All family members can develop effective communication styles that will improve the quality of their relationships beyond the family home. Why not start talking today?


Adapted from: Tips for Better Family Communication

By Stephanie Tallman Smith



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