Good communication is vital to maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries well into adulthood, and it starts at home, modeled by a child’s parents. As a parent, you want the best for your child and you want them to grow and succeed in life, and teaching them healthy communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal are key to a secure attachment style and encourages high self-confidence and resilience. When there’s a breakdown in communication, it can be incredibly difficult for everyone in your family, or even in other parts of your life.
Here are some tips for teaching your child healthy communication skills:
• Actively listen.
Active listening is a skill that makes sense but many people lack it. Actively listening is about understanding what your child is saying, instead of listening to respond. It includes giving your child your undivided attention, putting phones and devices down, turning the TV off, and repeating what your child says to you back to them so you understand exactly what they’re trying to tell you. Repeating what your child has said to you is known as reflective listening and can help ensure you know what your child is trying to tell you. When a child is being listened to, they feel more understood, less frustrated, and may be more willing in the future to talk to you if an uncomfortable issue or situation comes up that they are unsure of how to process and deal with. This is especially beneficial when children become teenagers.
• Model and teach empathy.
While it’s true some people may be more in tune with how others feel than others, empathy can be modeled and taught to a degree. You can help show your child empathy by showing kindness to others, verbalizing the feelings of others, explaining those feelings in age-appropriate terms, acknowledging how your child is feeling whether good or bad, reading books about empathy, and discussing the feelings of the characters in the book, and helping them see and understand things from another person’s perspective.
• Understand your own feelings and work on how you communicate with others.
Ensure you are respectful while also expressing your thoughts and feelings to help model the way they should act when faced with a difficult conversation or situation. This could include learning assertive, yet kind communication, as well as paying attention to how you communicate. Some great tips on communicating with others can be found here.