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Healthy Communication: working together as a team, growing stronger as a family

Spending 24/7 together as a family can mean we sometimes find it difficult to keep communication healthy. Families grow and become stronger when we focus on relationships and we should take this opportunity in these challenging times to practice healthy communication skills. Also, children see us as role models. By showing them healthy communication, we will set them up with skills for life.

Here are some Tips & Tricks for healthy communication:

 

Listening

Really hearing what is going on for our child, observing their body language (90% of our communication is non-verbal) and even “mirroring back” those feelings to show them that we understand what they are feeling. When we allow those feelings without judgement or criticism, our children will feel valued. We call this “active listening”.

 

Being a role model

  • Be clear and specific when explaining new things
  • Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks
  • Show them what to do
  • Work together until we and our children know what needs to be done
  • Encourage asking questions so they can get clear about what we ask them to do
  • Talk about consequences of behavior
  • Invite children to provide feedback on how things are going

Praising

  • Children need affirmation to learn and become more responsible
  • Immediate praise is the most effective
  • Praise the specific things they have worked on or accomplished
  • Find the positive in a difficult trait, behavior or situation
  • Acknowledge even small steps
  • Allow for mistakes, we all learn from our mistakes

 

Using I-messages: what to say when we are upset

Using an “I” message will express our own needs, expectations or feelings in a respectful way to our children. An “I” message can also state positive feelings. An “I” message exists of three parts: description of the specific behavior, description of how we feel and of the effect of the behavior on us. For example: “When I see you playing with your toys when it is dinner time, I get upset because I don’t want to keep the rest of the family waiting,” or “I feel so proud of you offering your help with cooking. I love seeing what a kind person you are.”

The “I” message will not result in modified behavior though. To encourage the desired behavior, after using the “I” message we need to:

  • state our expectations or the rule, or
  • offer some alternatives, or
  • describe what we would like done, and if necessary
  • impose a consequence

 

 Problem exploration

  • Select a calm time to discuss the situation with our child
  • Discuss the situation from both perspectives
  • Brainstorm together possible solutions
  • Create a plan and set a date to evaluate the effectiveness together

Giving children this quality time and attention is one of the most important things we can give them. This does not mean we need to give them constant attention, it means that when we spend time together, we try to be present, listen actively and communicate healthy. Spending quality time together will strengthen our relationship, it will build children’s self-esteem and help them regulate their emotions.

(credit: free content from centerforparentingeducation.org)