Today’s blog post about communication with your child is written by our child therapist, Amy Rozett, LPC, RPT. Amy has some good tips for encouraging your child to speak more freely with you.
Ever noticed that your child or teen clams up when you ask about their day….their friends…their lives? Learning to be a better listener can help kids feel more comfortable opening up. Here are some tips to get the ball rolling:
Take the pressure off your communication
Kids often are more open when they are doing something with their hands or engaged in an activity. Sitting across from a child and rapid-firing questions typically results in kids feeling put on the spot – sort of like being called on in class – resulting in that all too familiar “I don’t know” response. Try talking to your child while cooking, building legos, going for a walk, playing a board game, etc. Start with general conversation about the activity then watch and wait for your child to offer information…you may be surprised at the result!
Make sure that you show your child that you are paying attention by looking directly at them, pay attention to what they are saying or doing and put away distractions such as your cell phone or computer. If you are not able to immediately stop what you are doing, let them know you will be with them momentarily and make sure to follow up. Here are some more tips on active listening published by the American Psychological Association.
Physically show that you are listening
Smile, nod, use facial expressions and open body language. Even if your child is telling you something you are unhappy about, try to really listen to them and allow them to finish before thinking about what you are going to say in response.
Remember that you are a role model for good communication
Keep in mind that HOW you listen to your child sets the stage for how well they will listen to others. Make sure that your behavior is consistent with what you want them to do. For example, if you tell them not to interrupt when others are talking, make sure that you are modeling that behavior when listening to them. If you want them to look at you when you are talking to them, avoid listening to them while you are playing on your phone or watching t.v. How comfortable are you, as a parent, with sharing your thoughts and feelings? Are you a family that regularly shares emotions and discusses issues openly? Remember that children will follow your lead.
Communicate Respect and Understanding for Your Child’s Feelings and Thoughts
Remember that children experience the world differently than you do. What you may think is a minor issue or concern may feel huge to your child in the moment. Children do not have the sophisticated coping mechanisms that adults possess. Always remember to respect what your child feels, even if it seems trivial to you.