Yesterday I mentioned that I was devoting this week’s blogs to communication. These blogs include definitions, how we utilize various forms of communication, and how to become a better communicator. I have always been fascinated by various forms of communication. The array of effects communication may have on people intrigues me. As a family consultant, I continuously work with families to proceed past communication breakdowns and to strengthen the family bond through positive, effective communication techniques.
2 way communication is one of the give-and-take methods. This form is most commonly played out through conversation. I am sure everyone can remember a conversation where the other person was not involved. Either they did not look at you, they did not respond, or they did not offer any information or ask any questions. I also remember times when I have had a great conversation with someone and walked away feeling energized! Teaching your family good communication skills through effective conversation is one of the best ways to connect, problem solve, and share experiences.
Starting the Conversation
Verbally communicating with your children is a natural and obvious way to connect at any age. Very young children will hear your voice, see your face, and start to put together words and objects. They will hear words and see emotions that match. They will hear names, colors, and objects and start to mimic those words. Asking questions as well as providing verbal praise prepares them for the speaking world.
School age kids often have much to share, but keep to themselves. Attempts to show their independence can separate them from the family. Start conversations with phrases such as, “Tell me about…” or “How do you feel about…?” Asking questions that do not allow one word answers sets up a conversation easily and automatically. I can’t guarantee that the conversation will continue, but coaxing out more than just one word is a place to start.
I believe that everyone loves talking about shared experiences and memories. As a teacher I would start conversations with, “The other day I was thinking about a time I…” This gets the kids thinking about a similar experience. Most people naturally want to share their experiences. I would also break the ice with, “The other day I was thinking about you and the time we…” This is a great conversation starter for two reasons. First, having someone tell you they were thinking about you feels good. Secondly, talking about an experience that you shared together strengthens your connection. I could also use this tactic when I needed to discipline a student. Reminding kids of the good times, or when they did a great job, often calms the current situation.
When I was growing up, the idea of a family conversation was the worst form of punishment. I knew, the moment we were all in the kitchen, my mother would bring up our bad deeds and want to talk about them. I did not want to tell her why I made a bad decision nor did I want to hear why she thought I had made the bad decision. I wanted to quickly be punished and get out of there. Looking back on these events, I see that my parents were at the end of their rope and trying desperately to maintain discipline and control.
The idea of a family meeting is great, but execution of family meetings is often poor. Many times, this is due to lack of input from the actual family! Meetings are a great way to get everyone together. Use this time to engage in conversation, and be sure the meetings are held for a variety of reasons. Some good examples include:
- planning a weekly menu
- planning a party
- playing a family game
- deciding the breakdown of chores
- working out holiday plans
- addressing discipline issues
If family meetings are a regular and scheduled part of your day, week, or month, kids become comfortable talking in a family setting. I love the idea of having a family conversation over dinner with topics in a jar for family members to choose and discuss.
A good conversation involves talking as well as listening. Do not forget the listening! Include kids by involving them in family decision-making and conversations. Ask open-ended questions, talk about past vacations or school holidays, or ask them to help solve a problem. These are all good ways to get the ball rolling.
More articles related to this topic:
Effective Communication: Tips for Parents and Teens
Talking to Kids: 100 Conversation Starters & Questions