Positive communication can strengthen families
Communication is an important part of a satisfying parent-child relationship. Adult-child interactions affect all family relationships. Therefore, effective communication is a basic building block for strong families.
To be able to understand what’s communicated, a person must listen, decode the message, and then give feedback. This process ensures the receiver understood the message in the same context in which it was sent. Communication includes speaking, writing, reading, listening, understanding and evaluating.
Research suggests that the best parent-child relationships involve a lot of positive communication and interaction. In such relationships, communication happens on a regular basis, not just when there is conflict. Parents’ interactions with their children can be more rewarding when they understand how children of different ages communicate and what topics interest them. Researchers believe that when adults and children stay in touch through attention and conversation, children may be less likely to “act out” or behave in ways that cause conflict or require discipline.
Just as regular communication with children creates satisfying parent-child relationships, adults who take time to really listen and learn about each other discover ways to more effectively communicate with other adults. We are all shaped by a number of factors, including ethnic background, religion, class, race, age, profession, places where we have lived, life experiences, and many other individual and group influences. The best communication happens as we discover, respect, and respond to the individual uniqueness of the person with whom we are communicating.
Here are some tips to help improve communication:
- Be aware of potential distractions and adjust your surroundings as needed. If your audience’s attention is elsewhere, your message will probably not get through. Turn off the TV, for example, or wait until the distraction is ended before continuing your conversation.
- Pay attention to your body language.The way you hold your body, your tone of voice, eye contact, and inflection all affect the communication process.
- Be specific and get to the point.People will appreciate it if you don’t waste their time with unnecessary words.
- Respect the personal space of others.People may begin to feel uncomfortable if you stand closer than 18 inches. However, they may think you’re trying to avoid them by standing more than 4 feet away.
- Remember that communication goes two ways.When you pay attention to feedback you receive, you can adjust what you say or how you say it to communicate more effectively.
- Silence can be an appropriate response.If you need a few moments to gather your thoughts before responding, say something like “Could I have just a moment to think about that?” or “I’ll have to think about that before I answer.” Using statements such as these will let people know you’re not ignoring them if you’re silent.
- Use “I” messages.State how you feel, rather than accusing the other person of wrongdoing or putting the other person down. Here’s a helpful “formula” to remember: “I feel (describe your feelings) when you (state the unacceptable behavior) because (describe the effect of the behavior). I prefer (state what you want).” For example: “I feel upset when you’re late for dinner because everyone’s food gets cold. I prefer that you get here on time.”
By taking steps to improve your communication skills, you will be more likely to increase the number of positive interactions with those around you. This can help to strengthen your family and to improve your quality of life.
Source: Adapted from Building Strong Families curriculum, University of Missouri Extension.
To learn more about communicating with kids of different ages: see guide sheet #GH 6123, Communicating Effectively with Children. Available online at http://muextension.missouri.edu/explore/hesguide/humanrel/gh6123.htm or in print from your local Extension office.
Teresa L. Mareschal, MAT
Human Development Specialist