Connecting and Communicating with Your KidsAmber Brandt
The past couple of years have largely impacted the way we communicate and connect with one another. It has been an extremely isolating time for many. Communication barriers like lockdowns and social distancing reminded us just how important it is for humans to cultivate relationships and challenged us to find new ways to stay in touch and remain connected.
The good news is many families developed stronger communication skills and enhanced their family relationships despite the challenges… but there is always room for more growth. Effective communication should be a lifelong journey of improvement that grows as your family does.
Looking for ways to create stronger, more open dialogue with your kids? Here are some tips for family communication based on your child’s stage of life:
Positive communication tips for elementary-aged children
1. Give them focused attention. If you have a child who often chatters on about their day, it may be difficult to want to make space to engage. The truth is, they can wear you out! But if your child opens up about their day, it’s important to make time to listen with your whole body. Turn toward them, make eye contact, even kneel down to get on their level and really listen.
2. Note increased emotion. When your child exhibits emotion through their words or body language, dial in. Acknowledge that they seem upset or scared, make an observation about what you’re seeing and invite them to elaborate. “You seem upset, did something happen at school today?”
3. Engage with play or activities. Toys and supplies that lend to creativity are a great way to connect with your child. Create an art project together, or take ten minutes playing with blocks, trucks, or dolls with them. You don’t have to invest an entire afternoon with them on the playroom floor, just set aside some concerted, designated time for authentic connection.
Creating connection with your middle schooler
1. Keep your sense of humor. The pre-teen years are intense for your child and for you, but if you can find ways to laugh together, you’ll maintain a special bond.
2. Encourage them. Your middle schooler is facing new challenges, changes, and expectations… but a little positive affirmation goes a long way. Tell your child about the good you see in them. You’ll boost their self-esteem, confidence and motivation.
3. Keep it casual and planned. As your child’s schedule begins to ramp up with sports, events, and a burgeoning social life, be sure to set aside time together where easy communication and fun can happen. Have a standing trip to Target on Thursday evenings or go on a spontaneous walk and chit chat.
Creating connection with your high school child
1. Do things together. As your child grows and even begins to drive, schedules can quickly get away from you, but don’t let them. Cook meals together, sit down to eat together, work together raking leaves or doing projects around the house, watch a show together. Engage them in the tasks you’re doing and invite conversation as you go.
2. Be welcoming to their friends. Your teenager’s friends are very important to them. Don’t shy away from inviting them over to hang out at your house. This will help you to remain connected without having to pry.
3. Be honest with them. If you want to maintain your child’s respect, you must give them some. Listen and really hear what they say, be available when they want to talk, and be honest with them, especially when they ask hard questions. Try to be a good sounding board and resource for them.