3 Secrets that will change the way communication happens in your family.
I can remember my oldest daughter coming to me when she was in first grade and telling me she had to talk to me. We sat down at the table. I was ready to offer her my best mom advice and couldn’t wait to help her with whatever was bothering her.
Then she told me: there was a boy at school who wouldn’t stop talking about ____ (insert any “potty talk” here.) It took everything for me not to laugh or smile because she was so serious. She needed to figure this out. He sat next to her and she said she was having the hardest time concentrating on school work. (This was back when we were a family of just three daughters. Fast forward and there is now a three year old baby brother in our family and I am pretty sure she has figured out the whole “potty talk”-from-boys thing.)
No matter what that conversation was about, I was grateful that my daughter knew she could come talk to me about what was bothering her. Our children learn communication from a young age. They learn how to initiate conversation, basic skills to practice, and how to express feelings. As they grow, it is critical that we, as parents, model the skills they need as they mature and that we also encourage the important conversations to happen.
If our children are comfortable coming to us with the little stuff when they’re little (even though it may be big to them), they will come to us with the big stuff when they are older. So whether it is how to deal with “potty talk” in the classroom or how to deal with tough teenager topics, there are some basic communication practices we can implement in our homes to encourage our child to be willing to come to us.
The most important communication skill to be learned and practiced at home is how to make eye contact. Eye contact when you speak to someone, when you say hello to an adult, when you interact with a cashier. Our world is full of enough distractions. When you give someone your eye contact, it can often communicate more than your words. So put down the device, turn off the TV, step away from the chore. If we don’t look up right away, the person may decide the conversation isn’t all that important and decide not to share with us. Use your eyes to let them know you are available to talk.
The second secret to keeping communication open is to keep the conversation positive. If your child is confident that they will be able to share with you in a non- judgmental way, they will be more likely to come to you. If they feel anxious that the conversation may turn negative, then they may simply avoid the conversation altogether. Use the first part of the conversation to just listen, then offer positive words or advice, and put some distance between the moment if it must turn to negative talk.
Finally, show your family members enough interest daily that you know what drives them, what excites them, what is bothering them, or what goals they are working towards. If you take time to ask questions everyday or engage in activities with them, this will happen easily. Taking time to get to know someone, especially our family members, builds trust. When trust is the foundation of any relationship, communication will happen naturally.
Thankfully, my daughter knew at a young age that she could come talk to me seeking advice for a problem she was having. So what did I tell her about the potty talk in class? I empowered her to go to her teacher, make eye contact, and have this discussion herself. We role played at the table that day and she went to class the next morning confident to share her feelings with her teacher. The problem was solved and my daughter learned some valuable communication skills in the process.
Making eye contact, keeping it positive, and genuinely getting to know one another may not seem like huge secrets to communication, but they can be easily forgotten among the busyness of our lives. When all of these are made to be important values in our homes, open conversations will be a normal part of our lives.
Jennifer is the founder of Togather Moments, the dinner table game solution to catch all precious moments and all those inbetween, where you just want to slow down, focus, and be present with one another. You can download 7 free stickers to try out today. Check out her company here.