Learning How to Talk, Listen and Connect with Your Kids
Who understands kids these days? We have our ups and downs around here. Effective communication with your child can become a challenge as they get older. As much as you may not want to talk to them sometimes, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.
Mastering effective communication is a skill that can benefit personal and professional relationships and interactions. If done right, it can help diffuse situations and prevent misinterpretations. Like all things, practice makes perfect.
If this is a new process for you, what better place to start than with your family. All parents want to believe that whenever their child needs to talk to them, good or bad, they would be comfortable doing so. Chatting openly with your parents is natural for some people; it’s what they’ve always known. For others, conversation, if any, is superficial at best.
Whichever side of the line you fall on, I’ve provided a few tips below that can help ease the process.
When to Communicate with Your Child
I don’t have to tell you that you are always communicating with your child. We communicate with our words and our actions or inactions. There is always an exchange of information taking place.
Childhood provides many opportunities to enforce the values that you want your kids to have as they age. Those precious 1:1 moments are plentiful when our kids are young. They are hungry for our attention and want to talk to us as much as possible.
Take advantage of that attention. Talk during bath time or while coloring together. Ask how their day was at school. If they talk about friction with a classmate, consider that an open door to talk about kindness, forgiveness or sharing.
For older kids, make an effort to touch base daily. They may not always be receptive, but they will subconsciously notice your presence. Don’t be hurt if there is a stage when you’re shut out. Pre/teens are hormonal and trying to assert their independence. This is to be expected. Stay the course! You can make it through to the other side.
It can be easier for parents and kids to connect over an activity. If this sounds like you and your child, do something together. Sometimes, deeper talks are easier to have when no eye contact is made. Getting the courage to say those first few words can be hard on both sides.
Maybe you can take walks after dinner, or go hiking on the weekend. Grab a coffee/ hot chocolate for a leisurely walk. Go shopping. Take coffee or ice cream on a walk. You might be surprise with how far you walk and how much is shared.
Once you find something that’s working, being consistent is important.
How to Have Effective Communication with Your Child
Is there a specific way to have effective communication with your child? Not really. But there are things to keep in mind to ensure that you are being respectful.
Chances are, there will be many, many moments when you do not agree with a choice your child makes. But, how you approach the situation and discuss it with them matters. It may impact how they view that situation as well as whether or not they take you into their confidence in the future.
When talking to your little ones, get down on their level. Nobody wants to be lorded over. Sit on the floor or a stool, anywhere that you can connect with them at eye-level. That small gesture will immediately get their focus and attention.
When you have something to share, cater the message to the audience. Speak with words they will understand and ensure they are comfortable. Avoid burdening them with adult problems. They are not there to be your shoulder to cry on. Find another adult or therapist for that.
In all cases, young or old, stay calm and be mindful of your tone. Show restraint and avoid being judgmental. Be an active listener. Show them you are present and focused on them.
Related Article: Daily Affirmations for Kids
Reminders to Guide Effective Communication with Your Child
- Get on Their Level
- Maintain Eye-Contact
- Be Present/ Focus on the Speaker
- Don’t Interrupt
- Avoid Judgement
- Be as Relaxed as You Can (ex. No Clenched Fists, Bouncing Legs)
- Watch Your Tone
- Repeat What You Hear/ Understand (Mirror Back)
- Respect Boundaries
- Ask Questions, But Don’t Push
Remember, it’s not about, “I told you that was going to happen.” You should never approach the conversation with the intention of being proven right. The other person knows that already. It’s about being understanding and open and listening. There are more lessons to be learned and connections to be made that far outweigh your victory lap.
I co-parent. This is the reality for a lot of families. Communication can be even more of a challenge if you don’t live full-time with your child. This means, you may have to work even harder to ensure you’re not only spending time with your child, but actually connecting with them.
If you are a parent who lives away from your child, how do you communicate? We are lucky to live in a time where technology makes things easier. You can call/ Face Time, text or Zoom with your child. Those are probably the most familiar options.
You can also meet them where they are. What are they into? Tik Tok? Make an embarrassing dance video. Snapchat? Say cheese and find your favorite filter. Video Games? Create an avatar and join the multiplayer universe or whatever they’re into.
These ideas are equally useful for parents that travel. The point is, you have no excuses. You can still be there emotionally even if you are not there physically.
Effective Communication with Your Child: The Family Meeting
Do you know what a family meeting is? It’s basically what it sounds like… a family meeting. Family meetings are usually reserved for moments to share/ discuss big news affecting the family, like moving or divorce, for example. A family meeting can also be called in order to deal with family disputes or issues that need resolution.
I challenge families to use them more frequently. Think about adding a family meeting to your Sunday dinner, weekly or once per month. Call it a check-in. It’s great to touch base. Kids may grumble, but they will also secretly appreciate the consistency.
For working parents who aren’t able to spend as much time with their kids as they would like, this designated time can be important in helping to stay close. This is also a good time for you to share information about your life to your kids. Communication is a dance of give and take. Cha, cha, cha.
Parent & Child Communication Activities
Doing something active can take the strain and awkwardness out of heavy conversations. You may find that your kids will initiate conversations when you’re relaxed and enjoying time together. Remember that the gift of your time is a great communicator all on it’s own. Enjoy one-on-one time with each of your kids. Make yourself available and show your children that they are a priority in your life.
- Driving in the Car (School, Sports, Errands, etc.)
- Cooking/ Baking/ Manning the Grill
- Tossing a Ball/ Shooting Baskets (Football, Baseball, etc.)
- Hair Care (Hair Cuts, Braiding, etc.)
- Manicure/ Pedicure (Take Turns Doing Each Others Nails)
- Biking/ Cycling
- Take a Walk/ Go Hiking
- Campfire (Campsite or Fire Pit in the Yard)
- Fishing/ Boating
- Making Jewelry
- Sewing/ Knitting/ Crochet
- Ping-pong/ Pool/ Darts
- Fixing Cars/ Motorcycles
- Building a Robot/ Computer
This togetherness is not just for talking about stuff, it’s also great for the personal/ emotional connection with your kids. This is where memories are born.
You may have to get a little creative to find ways to sneak into your child’s line of sight on a daily basis. Kids are creatures of habit. Follow their trail and you’ll find a way to connect.
- Text/ Face Time/ Email
- Tik Tok/ Snapchat
- Mail Greeting Cards
- Topics: Humor, Love, Appreciation, Encouragement
- Mail or Leave in the House to be Discovered
- Video Games (learn to play what they like)
- Chalkboard/ Dry Erase Board
- Leave Post-Its or Dry Erase Messages
- Post it Notes:
- Messages: Humor, Love, Appreciation, Encouragement
- Lunches, Food/ Drinks, Water Bottles, Laptop, Cell Phone
When all is said and done, communication is critical in our lives and something we can all work on improving. Communication is both active and passive. You are either giving or receiving.
Further, the way in which we communicate may be ever changing. What may have worked when your kids were small, may no longer be effective. So, if circumstances change, it’s time to adapt so the door remains open. Welcome the opportunity to talk when it arises. Create an opening if it doesn’t naturally present itself.
Not all conversations are serious. Thank goodness! If you’re lucky, you’ll start the process with the little things that happen in their young lives. I’m enjoying time with my kiddo right now. She jumps on the couch and snuggles into her nook (against my side, with my arm around her) and we talk and talk. But, I know that will eventually change.
Show your kids that you value communication by doing it yourself. Let them see you interact with other family members and out in the community. Talk to them about what happened and why it was or wasn’t a good outcome. By demonstrating the behavior, being receptive, and withholding judgement, you’re more likely to prepare your family to be successful communicators.
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How was communication in your family? Have you changed anything with your kids? Share your tips in the comments below.
8 thoughts on “Effective Communication with Your Child”
Communicating with a child is different than communicating with an adult. Thank you for sharing these tips. I need to learn how to communicate with kids. I’m bad at it 😛
This is a really helpful blog post to know how to communicate with children. Thank you for sharing your tips and suggestions.
Thank you Lauren. I feel like I learned a lot about communicating with my own child, especially in this last year. The need to adjust how I communicate never occurred to me that it was something I needed to adapt when I became a mom. I hope this helps other parents who may have felt like I did.
You’re right, Fadima. It is different, but a lot of the same principles are important whether speaking to a child or an adult. Kids require a different level of patience and repetition that is typically needed with adults for one. And, for kids, there’s also the editing of your message to ensure that it can be received in the best way possible depending on their age. I have definitely learned a lot about how communication since becoming a parent. It’s far more complex than I realized. I definitely took it for granted before becoming a mom.
Ah, such a great post! Congratulations, it’s really top-notch and so important. I wish more parents can learn to incorporate many of the ideas you shared. I’ve realized that talking to kids it’s not something that comes naturally to every mom and dad but from working with kids over so many years I know they can benefit a lot from more meaningful connection and family time. I never had a family meeting while growing up and I’d love that. It’s like you said, they may show resistance, but kids (and teenagers) also appreciate (and need) it.
Thanks, Vanessa! I’ve been putting a lot of what I’m writing into practice with my daughter. I realized that sometimes it takes experimenting with asking things in several different ways in order to get her to understand me. Without that experimenting and flexibility to our communication, we were both just getting frustrated and not getting anywhere. It’s helpful for adults to remember that they are not talking to other adults. These little minds are still learning and growing and patience and flexibility is so important to successful interactions.
This is such a good post, and I’m sure helpful for many parents. I find it’s all about the timing here – before bedtime, or in the car are good, but he needs the time to decompress after school.
Yes, Emma, you’re absolutely right about that. Timing is everything. And, who doesn’t need to decompress after their day at work or school. I used to always pad 30 minutes at the end of my work day for that. That’s how it is for as as adults as well, right? I think if you pay attention to your kids queues/ moods, you can find a time for those all important conversations to take place. Or, they will come to you when they’re ready.