Tips to Better Communicate with Your Child
Effective communication with your children is extremely important for helping them develop emotional intelligence. In our modern tech age, I see more and more kids suffering that do not know how to express themselves or how to process their emotions. But, you can help your child by modeling proper ways to handle their emotions. Follow these tips for how to better communicate with your child.
Emotions happen naturally and cannot be controlled when they come up. You can, however, control how you react to them which is where you as parents can help your children navigate how to respond to their emotions.
Often children feel overwhelmed by their emotions, which makes it difficult to have a logical conversation until you can address the emotions. Validating their feelings is the most important thing you can do with your child. Always show that you acknowledge and understand their emotions by saying things like “I understand how that might feel scary” or “That would make me pretty sad too”.
Hot Tip: Sometimes you might not agree with your child’s emotional response, but you still must validate them. Adopt the phrase “If that would true…” then continue to validate their emotions. While it isn’t admitting that you agree with their actions or behaviors, you are still acknowledging their emotions.
Listen, Don’t Fix
I am definitely a fixer in my family. I like to just jump in and solve problems, but that really isn’t helping your kids learn in anyway. Often, kids just want to be heard. So, force yourself to slow down and just listen (whether you agree with it or not).
I will often ask my kids how they want me to respond, do they want me to just listen or do they want advice? More often than not, they just want you to listen and validate their feelings.
Communicating with your children isn’t all just about listening to their emotions. At some point, you will have to step in and correct actions or behaviors. Rather than becoming accusatory and framing your statements as something they did wrong though, express your concerns using “I” statements. Starting your sentences with “I am concerned…” or “I am disappointed that…” will help keep your emotions separate from theirs.
I try to teach this same sentiment to my kids to not accuse others but instead communicate how a certain event made them feel. If your child uses a “You” statement, like “You took my phone away because you hate me,” your automatic response would be “No, I didn’t” or “That’s not true”. By using “I” statements, it prevents others from getting defensive right away.
By using the word “but,” you effectively invalidate all the feelings you just spent validating. For example, avoid saying “I know studying for an exam might be stressful and overwhelming, but you are failing math class”. Kids won’t hear that you validated their feelings and just focus on everything that came after “but”.
Instead, remove the “but” by validating their feelings and then using an “I” statement to express your concerns. Using the example above, you could say “I know homework and studying can be overwhelming. I am concerned about your math grades and want to help you”.
Check Your Tone & Body Language
Kids read into your body language long before they listen to what you have to say. Try to mimic their body language so that if they are sitting, you should be sitting too. Also, your tone suggests more than your words so make sure you are speaking in a calm, even tone. If you sense yourself getting upset and raising your voice, take a moment to step away, calm down, and then return to the conversation at a later time. It is important to model healthy ways of communication and not create an environment of yelling.
Hot Tip: The car can be a great place to have some tougher conversations with your kid. The environment is a little more relaxed, which can help your child feel a more open to communicating.
Use a Shared Journal
Some kids prefer writing instead of talking face to face. These kids can benefit from writing and communicating in a shared journal. If the journal shows up on your bed, then you know they have something they want to talk about. When my daughter was little, we even created little mailboxes out of a shoebox so we could share notes with each other.
Applaud Efforts, Not Results
Help build your child’s self-esteem by praising them for their efforts. They might not have gotten an A on their test, but you can reward their efforts of studying every night for the past week.
I read this a long time ago that kids want you to say “I’m so proud of you”. But, instead of first saying how proud you are, switch it around to say “You must be so proud of yourself”. It helps build confidence in their own abilities and goes along with applauding their efforts. It will help teach them not to rely on others for praise and validation.
The most important thing is that you try your best when communicating with your child. We are human though and sometimes emotions get the best of us, but don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are here reading this blog post, then you are already taking a step in the right direction towards being a better parent for your kid, so I applaud you for that. Keep up the good work!
Feel yourself stressed when trying to communicate with your child? You might have too much on your plate, which prevents you from really being an active listener. Check out my tips for how to lighten your mental load.