18 Dec 9 Tips to Improve Family Communication Skills
There’s nothing worse than feeling unheard and misunderstood – especially in your own home and among the people you are supposed to be closest with. This article explores some of the root causes of dysfunctional family communication, providing strategies to bring harmony and understanding back to your family dinner table discussions.
Causes and effects of communication gaps in a family
Have you ever reacted in a way that made your child or teen regret talking to you? Perhaps you shamed or scolded them for something that wasn’t their fault or that they didn’t deserve. Sharing their secrets or personal information with someone can also be a big trust breaker.
Studies have also attributed the lack of communication in the family to society’s growing ambition and the invasion of modern media into our lives and living rooms. We are often more engaged with our phones than we are with the people around us, leading to a disconnection among family members.
Strategies to improve communication in the family
You don’t need a doctorate in international relations and dispute resolution to communicate with your child or teen. Try following these 8 tips to improve family communication.
1. Be a good role model.
Our children learn family communication skills by example. Be conscious of the tone and language you use when talking to them, your partner and your own parents. Your child will communicate with kindness and respect if you do.
2. Hit pause on the conversation. Think before you speak.
Don’t hesitate to hit pause on the conversation if you feel you or another family member is getting too angry. This prevents anyone from saying something in the heat of the moment they might later regret and gives everyone a chance to calm down and process their thoughts.
3. Practice active listening.
Ensure each family member is actively engaged in the discussion. Face each other, make eye contact and remove any distractions (e.g. phones, video games or television).
Another way to demonstrate you are listening and understanding each other is to paraphrase or restate what your family members are saying. Phrases like “you mentioned’ and “so you feel like” help to validate their feelings.
4. Attack the problem, not the person.
An easy way of doing this is to avoid using phrases like “you did this…” and “it’s because you…”. These phrases place the blame on the other person. Instead, talk about how you feel: “I feel sad when you…”. Putting the focus on your own feelings also makes you less likely to make assumptions about the other person’s intent.
5. Stick to the issue at hand.
Avoid bringing up unrelated conflicts. This can be hard because dysfunctional family communication can cause us to accumulate a lot of emotional baggage.
6. Don’t compare your child to others.
You might think comparing your child to their friends, siblings or yourself will help them to realise and achieve their ideal self, but they often interpret it as a jab at their self-esteem.
7. Adolescence and a lack of communication in the family
Your child or teen is still developing and so is their ability to handle their emotions and communicate properly. Adolescents generally desire more privacy; respect this.
8. Lecture vs converse
Your child might feel like you lecture rather than converse with them most of the time. Start rebuilding the foundations of family communication by chatting about topics they enjoy.
9. Respect your differences
Always respect each other’s perspectives and differences. You might live under the same roof, but family members often hold very different opinions.
A youth camp to teach discipline, communication and conflict resolution
If you have concerns over your child or teen’s ability to communicate, perhaps a Veteran Mentors youth camp can help.
The Junior Leader Programs – designed to develop communication and conflict resolution skills in children and teens – are running in Sydney and on the Gold Coast during April, 2021.