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Healthy Communication Between Children and Their Families

Communication. It’s the basis of human interaction. Healthy communication is one of the most important skills in life, but can often be difficult to properly achieve, as it must be refined throughout childhood. The formative years of a child’s life are crucial, since this is the time period when little ones are learning how to emotionally interact with their parents and siblings – which will later shape how they interact with peers and adults in school, work, and relationships.

Just as it’s a parent’s job to teach his or her child how to behave, it’s equally a parent’s job to teach how to communicate the emotions that accompany these behaviors. Below are three aspects of healthy communication between children and their families – featuring tips for a happy relationship as well as cautionary advice regarding what to avoid.

  1. Mindfulness facilitates open communication through acknowledgement of emotions. How many times have you witnessed a child in the middle of a tantrum, who is unable to name a specific reason for being upset? Oftentimes, children are overwhelmed with emotion, but are unsure how to express the whirlwind of feelings. That’s why it’s paramount to promote mindfulness, which teaches the child to be in the present while accepting and acknowledging any emotions that surface. Sometimes, feelings can be scary to little ones, so they attempt to resist them, only making the emotions more difficult to deal with. Teach your child to take a few moments each day to meditate while counting his or her breaths and accepting emotions – a practice that is especially useful before a tantrum.

2. Nurture your child’s mind, so that he or she not only knows how to communicate, but wants to as well.One of the best resources to read for guidance is Dan Siegel’s The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. The book suggests 12 rules that aim to help children use every part of their brains, both logical and creative, to communication and to better navigate through childhood. Here are a few highlights from the book:

“Name it to Name it.”

This strategy suggests the utilization of storytelling to shape healthy communication. What child doesn’t love a great story? Books are a fantastic opportunity to teach life lessons and to allow children to put themselves in the shoes of others – which promotes proper listening skills.

“Remember to Remember.”

Children should practice strengthening their memories. Not only is this great for preparing for school, but recollection is also a great way to encourage living in the present with acceptance of the past while looking forward to the future.

“Increase the Family Fun Factor.”

This rule focuses on the importance of having fun. While it may seem difficult, embrace your child’s early years. Yes, they are stressful, but they will fly by faster than you think… So, have fun! Show your little one that the world can be a wonderful place with healthy communication and quality time with family.

3. Avoid showcasing unhealthy communication. Remember that you are a role model for your little ones. For example, if you communicate aggressively when angry, your child will most likely take on this trait in his or her communication as well. Additionally, your responses to your child’s efforts to communicate are extremely important. Genuinely listen to his or her concerns, and show interest in conversations. Don’t criticize feelings, as they should always be seen as justified regardless of your own opinions. While at times it’s necessary to explain why you, as the parent, are right, there’s a fine line between guidance and dismissiveness.

Teach and show your children how to properly speak with and listen to others, as life is shaped at home. By starting with healthy communication between children and their families, your child will be better equipped to interact with the world throughout adulthood.

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