To develop a positive relationship, good parent-child communication is essential. The flow of communication depends heavily on the dynamics of your relationship with your child. If your child trusts you and feels secure, they are more inclined to make you their confidante. But getting to that point in your relationship requires skill and tact. You have to make space to do things together, whether it’s a quiet time cuddling or just watching a favorite TV show together. It is not possible to have a difficult conversation, for example on masturbation, if their is not an underlying basis of communication.
However, when you gain your child’s confidence, you must try not to violate their trust. You may even have to make difficult decisions sometimes, including keeping something from your partner, especially when they can’t keep a secret. It is also important to remember that you’re their confidant, not the other way round. While it’s good to give your child sneak peeks about your life from time to time, keep in mind that they are not your counselor. Here we discuss how to develop your child’s communication skills.
Benefits of Parent-Child Communication
Parents who often communicate openly and effectively are likely to raise children who do the same. Effective communication signals to your child that you respect him or her, making them feel heard, loved, and understood. Children usually form beliefs about themselves from the quality of their communication with their parents. And a strong sense of self is one of the best gifts a parent can give to their child. Their sense of self greatly influences children’s decisions and choices as they go through life. Children often generally find talking to adults difficult, this can be improved.
Clarity, brevity, consideration, completeness, and empathy are all characteristics of effective communication. When parents-children communication embodies these characteristics, children understand what’s expected of them, and parents are more involved in their children’s lives. This means that parents understand when to defend, hold back, or provide support and encouragement. Ultimately, this contributes to a feeling of security in children, which generally leads to more cooperation.
Other benefits of parent and child communication include:
- Communicating with your child helps them express their emotions better. Children who find it difficult to express feelings can easily get frustrated. This can get in the way of conflict resolution through dialogue. It will also help them talk about their health with other professionals as they will be more comfortable with the language.
- Communication requires language. When you communicate effectively with your child, you’re transferring a wealth of language to them. This improves their understanding of sentence structure.
- Where there’s effective communication between parent and child, the child easily informs their parent of the happenings in their life. This enables the parent to monitor their child’s progress and happiness.
How Can I Get My Child to Talk to Me?
As your child grows, a time may come when your usually talkative child suddenly becomes tight-lipped. At best, all you get are one-word replies like yes, fine, nothing, and alright. Several things might be causing this. Check yourself to see if you habitually jump in with your opinion and thoughts, you’re judgmental, talk too much, or are usually distracted. If it’s none of those, then it could be a matter of your child becoming more introverted or independent.
Whatever the case, Dr. Robyn Koslowitz, a licensed clinical psychologist and educational director of the Targeted Parenting Institute, suggests that if you want kids to “open up,” the key is not to try to get them to open up. Instead, join in a mutually enjoyable activity and get on the same wavelength. This will give the time and space for a conversation to occur. The other thing that works well for me is a long walk. Not looking at each other and the initial conversation being led by them on what they want. It could be an hour on ‘if this was your Minecraft world, where would you build your base?’ This is supported by research led by Elise Piazza, Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, which reveals that adult and toddler brains “sync up” during play. This will also apply to older children.
So the first part of getting your child to talk to you is to engage them in a fun activity to get you involved together. Dr. Koslowitz suggests games where the play goes between you quickly and doesn’t take much thought. For example, cards, dice, or simple games like Operation. These bring you close together and undisturbed. At the same time, you can talk while playing. Below are tips for redirecting your child’s thoughts and getting your child to talk to you.
- Concentrate on playing. Whatever fun activity you engage your child in, make sure to focus entirely on enjoying it together. If your focus is on the conversation you’re aiming to start, your child will sense it. The child will feel that you’re only using that activity as a means to an end. Not that you wanted to share quality time with them. Make sure conversation flows naturally after a long period of play, rather than from the beginning. If your child associates playing with you with an awkward conversation so they will feel manipulated and avoid it in the future.
- Timing is everything. As above, only attempt a conversation when you’ve played for some time. As you play, it’s important to take cues from your child’s reaction. If it’s a game, how does he or she react when they lose? Do they seem distracted? This gives you a picture of your child’s mental state. With that, you know when to say something and how to say it. For example, if the child loses and is overly frustrated, you could say, You seem upset. Do you want me to guess what’s bothering you? If the child is okay with that, ask them to confirm or dismiss your guesses. If not, let it go and let your child know that you’re always available anytime he or she wants to talk. If the child starts talking to you, you must listen and resist the urge to interrupt or share advice. Listening seems easy on the surface, but you may feel like you have so much to say and an urgent need to say it. A good listener listens to understand, not to reply. When your mind is moving between listening and coming up with a reply, then you’re listening only by half. At intervals, nod to show that you’re listening.
- Acknowledge their feelings. By now, you must have gotten a sense of where your child is emotionally. If the child is frustrated, validate their feelings and be supportive without trying to give feedback. The issue can always be revisited the following day during another activity. However, if your child has been playing in a way that appears resilient, Dr. Koslowitz advises that you may give feedback, but that’s after empathizing and validating their feelings.
How Should Parents Communicate With Their Children?
The way you communicate with your child has some bearing on whether the child listens or not. Parents talking to kids while being passive might not get the cooperation they expect. Here are tips on how to communicate better and get your child to talk to you.
- Use their name. Many adults like it when you use their names. It’s the same thing for children. Moreover, it helps call the child’s attention to you so that they can shift into active listening and really hear you.
- Moderate your volume appropriately. If your volume is always too high, your child might begin to tune you out. Never get into a yelling competition with your child. Always try to get them to calm down before speaking. Reserve your higher volume for urgent or dangerous situations. Your child will likely listen because it doesn’t happen often.
- Less negative language. Negative language only tells your child what not to do. Examples of negative language include phrases that shame or ridicule, name-calling, and instructions that start with don’t or no. Positive words give your child confidence and boost their self-esteem.
- Keep it brief and simple. Break your instructions or statements into small digestible blocks. With long and windy instructions, your child might only catch a small part of it and forget the other parts. It is essential to pay attention to how open and interested your child is in the conversation.
- Model good behaviors. Children are incredibly observant. Communicating your expectations is great, but your child watches how you react to situations and how you deal with people. If you’re the kind of parent that attaches please to every request, your child will mirror it. So model the behaviors you want to see in your child.
- Avoid nagging. The timing and frequency of communication are essential. Bombarding your child with reminders of their chores after a school day is a sure way to get them to tune you out. Communicate your expectations clearly and give your child space and time to rest after school. If a reminder is needed, make sure you’re not interrupting an activity they’re engaged in. You can even make a chart for the chores you expect the child to carry out. They can easily refer to it in writing.
- Give gentle notice. When it’s almost time to leave a place or end an activity, give the child notice. Say, “Jack, we leave in five minutes. Do you want me to gather your things?” This way, the child quickly warms up to the idea of leaving. Don’t wait right up to the point of departure before saying, “Jack, we’re leaving.”
- Let the little things go. Let the small stuff go and leave some unstructured time for your child to do as they see fit. Trying to get your child to do something at all times might cause them to tune you out. Even adults don’t appreciate constant lectures. The negative effect of this is that when you want to get them to do the big things, they might not listen to you.
Final Thoughts on How to Get Your Child to Talk to You
It’s not always a sign of underlying issues when children shut their parents out to some degree. Sometimes your child is just trying to figure stuff out on their own because they’re at that age where they’re trying at independence, which is why you might be getting one-word replies. In cases like that, asking open-ended questions is an excellent way to get them to be more detailed. Say, “What was the best or worst part of your day at school today?” Don’t just say, “How was your day?”