Effective communication within the family involves empathetic listening. All members should be allowed to express both positive and negative feelings to each other, without feeling judged or blamed for their thoughts and opinions. Active listening and better communication within a family starts at the parent or caregiver level. This relationship affects a family’s dynamic tremendously. There are a few things to take into consideration when establishing effective family communication.
Think before you speak or react. Consider how your message will be interpreted. What is your current mood? If you are angry, you may project your anger out on others around you and say something you will regret. If you are stressed or anxious, you make react with strong emotions. Being angry, stressed or anxious does not justify your negative behavior towards others in your family. Children are very observant when their parents don’t follow through with their demands or consequences. When parents are not consistent, children may become confused and their behaviors will reflect these uncertainties.
Parents and caregivers need to have realistic expectations that they regularly model. Is it fair to expect your children to behave in a way that you don’t? Taking a child’s current age and developmental level into consideration is important when it comes to expectations and discipline. When addressing an issue with a child, be clear, specific and avoid sarcasm, which can have a double meaning. Get to their level and make eye contact while talking and listening. Make sure your tone and body language are appropriate when delivering your message. If you are angry, its ok to take a “timeout” to calm down and refocus. Make sure you revisit the situation and come to an agreeable solution.
The most important aspect is to listen before you judge or disagree. Try to understand what others in your family are saying. Start by being mindful and not interrupting. “I” statements are useful instead of “you” statements which can be interpreted as judging or undermining another person. Parents need to model fair and open dialogue between family members to encourage resolving differences in a positive manner. Family rules and expectations should be followed equally with the opportunity to express disagreements respectfully. Each member should be able to have a voice and express their own preferences and opinions.
If your family is having trouble with effective communication, TCP Marriage & Family Services is here to help. For more information on our services, please call our office at (210) 516-2607 or visit our website at: www.tcpmfs.org.