What are some essentials for establishing open communication with your children? First, your children always need to have their feelings accepted and respected. When talking with your children, keep this thought in the back of your mind at all times. You can accept and respect your children's feelings even when you don't see things the same way. You also can accept their feelings without necessarily accepting how they handle them (for example, it's okay to be angry, but not to hit). If you fail to acknowledge children's feelings, then your children will have a harder time communicating with you.
The attitude you convey when talking with your children is another important consideration. Showing a positive attitude towards a child is as important as the words you speak. If a negative attitude contradicts positive words, the words lose their positive meaning.
When children are hurt or upset, the last thing they want to hear is advice or someone else's point of view. This kind of talk may make them feel worse. Try to really listen to your children when they are hurt or upset. Acknowledge their inner pain and give them a chance to talk about their problems. This will help your children feel less upset, less confused, and more able to cope with problematic feelings.
Sometimes parents become upset with their children and say inappropriate things. Work on self-control when you become upset at a situation. Self-control will help you avoid hurting your child's feelings. You also will be teaching your child to handle being upset in ways that do not hurt others.
Good communication takes time, work, and practice. Here are some suggestions for talking with your children.
-Use "I - language" to express your feelings. For example, instead of saying, "You made me angry when...," say, "I felt angry when..."
-Encourage your child to talk by asking "open-questions." For example, instead of asking, "Do you like school?" ask "What are the things you like about school? What are the things you don't like?"
-Make solving problems a partnership between you and your children. They may pleasantly surprise you!
-Always communicate your support for your children, even when their actions are unacceptable.
-Communicate your confidence in your children. If you believe in them, they will be more likely to believe in themselves.
-Give your child lots of praise and encouragement.
-Do not label your children, calling one "the stubborn one," another "the bully in the family," etc.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you on your way to a better relationship with your child.
Rose Fisher Merkowitz
OSU Extension Agent,Family and Consumer Sciences,Highland County
Reprinted with permission from Ohio State University Extension Service
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