We greet people all day long whether it’s by phone, on the street, at work, or in the store. We ask, “how are you”? Most of us rarely stop long enough to hear the response. Do we really want to hear the answer? I believe it has just become a standard way of greeting one another. Certainly a nice gesture, but what if the response was not what we expected? We expect that people will say “great”, and keep it moving. I am guilty of that as well. I have to remind myself to slow down from time to time.
The daily hustle and bustle can interfere with meaningful conversation in families. My family spends quite a bit of time in the car traveling to and from after school activities, then homework and dinner. For families with multiple children making sure all needs are met at the end of the day can be a challenge. Routines are good but not at the expense of checking in with our loves just to see how their day went. Lets not forget about our own needs and the needs of our spouse. It’s important that we take the time to connect with one another.
Here are a few tips for promoting healthy communication in a family:
1. Check in. Take some time to talk with your children and spouse about their day. Find out what is going on in their world.
2. Model good communication. Kids do as you do. As parents, we have to set the tone by modeling effective communication. I believe that a family that prays together stays together.
3. Begin with the positive when providing constructive feedback. Since life is not always a bed of roses, there will be times when we have to discuss tough issues. I like to begin with something positive before providing constructive feedback because it makes it easier to hear (sometimes).
4. Practice active listening. Take the time to sit and listen. Listening is the cornerstone of communication. People feel attended to and valued when you stop and listen. Allow others to express themselves without interruption. Eye contact and body language is also important. Often times we are formulating what we are going to say next before the person is even finished speaking. Sometimes my kids tell long drawn out stories and my eyes are glazing over but I listen. I think my hubby feels this way about me sometimes too (I’m a talker).
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This is one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I love this, and believe it is a great principle for life. I have my own unique take on it. This is closely related to active listening. Most people want to feel understood. My kids have said many times, “mom, you just don’t understand”. I urge them to help me understand. Paraphrasing what you are hearing back to them helps to ensure that you are getting it. The disclaimer here is that understanding does not necessarily mean you are in agreement.
6. Take a time out. Sometimes we all need to step away from a situation especially if there seems to be a disconnect. I recommend time outs as needed. Sometimes hashing it out at that moment will only make matters worse. There are times when it is best to take a break. Spending a few minutes in your room or a quiet place for kids and adults is a good idea. Continue the discussion later. It usually works out better.
7. No Yelling. It really is ineffective. It just creates stress in the environment and causes tension. Kids in general do not like it, and it doesn’t make them feel good. Parents, I know it can be frustrating saying the same thing over and over especially if your kids are old enough to know better. I usually take a time out before I get to this point. There are far more effective ways to communicate without yelling.
8. Spend quality time together. A regular date night with your spouse is a great way to stay connected. Carve out special family time as a group and with each of your children. There are many ways to spend time. Some families have a game night where they play board games. My 15-year-old daughter is my grocery shopping buddy every Sunday afternoon. We have great conversation and I learn a lot about what’s going on in her world. Quality time does not have to be expensive but it should be meaningful and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
There is no such thing as the perfect family but parents can help build strong relationships by teaching and modeling effective communication for our children. What strategies do you use in your home to build healthy relationships?
Peace and Blessings!
Peace and Blessings,