How can I . . . ?
- encourage my child to communicate and come to me with questions and problems?
- have healthy communication with my child and family members?
- manage challenging relationships, and solve problems and conflicts between family members?
What Is Positive Family Communication?
Family life usually involves multiple people with different ages, personalities, and needs living together under one roof. A family can include biological parents, step-parents, step-children, adopted/adoptive children and parents, foster children/parents. It may also include extended family, such as cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. For families to function well and for family members to get along, it takes patience, cooperation, and understanding. Disagreements and arguments are natural in close relationships. Knowing how to talk through problems before they become bigger conflicts is one of the most important skills parents can teach children.
Positive communication means family members feel comfortable expressing their feelings and emotions openly. It allows them to share their needs and concerns with one another honestly, without fear of being blamed, shamed, or misunderstood. Through open, honest communication, family members can grow closer and talk through frustrations together before they become larger conflicts.
Effective communication enables family members to:
- Understand and build closer bonds with one another
- Feel respected, listened to, and understood
- Work together to solve problems and conflicts
- Support and help one another through challenges
- Develop strong relationship skills (both within the family and with others)
Why It Matters
Effective, positive communication among family members is essential for strong, healthy family relationships. Even children in elementary school can learn the basic skills needed to communicate with care, compassion and clarity. Some of this will happen in the way parents model communication to each other and with their children. It also shows up in how children talk to their siblings, friends and teachers. The more often parents and caregivers display effective communication skills, the more likely their children will pick up on and demonstrate those same skills.
Some ways parents can caregivers can model positive communication are:
- taking responsibility for their own actions and admitting when they have done something wrong.
- providing empathy and compassion when someone gets hurt (physically or emotionally).
- showing encouragement and praise.
- handling conflict by using feelings and observations.
- remaining calm in stressful conversations or situations.
- modeling labeling and expressing feelings.
- avoiding blaming, shaming and belittling when someone makes a mistake.
Negative communication or a lack of communication can disrupt the sense of family connection. This can cause both the children and adults to feel stress, anxiety, isolation and loneliness, even within their own family. On the other hand, a supportive atmosphere that encourages open, positive communication and values everyone’s input can make a big difference for your teen and your family, both now and in the future. Good communication helps the whole family maintain strong connections and happy, healthy relationships.
Check the statements that are true about communication and relationships within your family and with your child.
- identify and express my feelings to my family.
- am honest when I am upset or having a difficult time.
- am open and ready to discuss issues that come up in the family or with individual members.
- take responsibility for my actions and admit when I am wrong.
- encourage and praise members of my family.
- remain calm in stressful situations and conversations.
MY FAMILY MEMBERS . . .
- feel that communication is important.
- trust one another.
- spend time together and talk frequently.
- know one another well.
- view one another as friends.
- feel comfortable talking about their feelings.
- can express frustrations without starting an argument.
- feelings and opinions are valued.
- give input on family decisions.
- support one another through challenges.
- talk through disagreements and solve problems together.
- and I know each other well.
- and I trust each other.
- and I spend time with each other and talk with them daily.
- feels comfortable talking with me about their feelings.
- comes to me when they have a problem.
- is asked for input on decisions that affect them.
- and I talk through disagreements and solve problems together.
Reflect on your responses. In which areas do you feel communication is strong in your family? With your child? What are some areas that could be improved?