Family communication helps maintain a strong relationship with your child

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Open and honest family communication is an effective tool and a means to develop and maintain a strong relationship with your child.

Effective and clear communication is not easy to come by; it takes work and persistence.

The following article offers some advice and easy tips to help you develop and improve communication with your child.

When your child speaks to you, make eye contact. Don't be distracted by anything else: all attention should be on the child.

As the child speaks with you, ask questions and show interest in what they have to say.

Allow the child to make their point. Don't interrupt or show disagreement, let the child have his or her say.

Remain objective and allow the child to complete their thoughts.

Remain honest and open. After the child finishes speaking, tell him or her how you feel.

Above all, be patient with your child.

Don't criticize the child; treat him or her with understanding and sympathy, even if you feel that you disagree with them.

Speak to them respectfully and guide them gently.

When communication is open, honest and understanding, your child will more reason to turn to you and trust your opinions and guidance in future interactions.

Tips for Good Listening

In order to teach listening skills to our children, we need to practice and apply good listening skills ourselves.

Start by creating a positive environment for communication. One in which you can respectfully hear what your children have to say without any distractions.

Let them express what it is they need to say without interruption or help.

Demonstrate respect for their point of view even if you disagree.

Allow the children to talk in their own time and in their own way.

Whenever possible, devote full attention to them and maintain eye contact.

Ask pertinent questions to draw them out or clarify what they're saying.

Your children will learn to be effective listeners by watching you and modeling these behaviors.

Example: Sometimes all a child wants to do is vent without necessarily generating a solution. A good listening exercise to practice and apply is to repeat or rephrase their statement back to them with empathy.

For instance, if a child is cranky and upset over a disagreement with a friend, you can say, "I am hearing that you feel angry and maybe hurt." This kind of statement can open up further areas of dialogue and also gives permission to the child to go ahead and feel these emotions.

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Back when our children were small, who could have imagined what life would hold for them: pressures surrounding sex, alcohol, drugs, and a bewildering array of messages, choices, and consequences.

While it's a rare parent who doesn't want to say, "Let me help you sort things out," we also recognize that our children's need for independence grows as they do.

And talking about touchy subjects can be especially difficult when teens tend to tune us out.

Finding Time for family communication

Driving your child to a sports activity or to meet her friends may seem like just another chore, unless you recognize it as an opportunity to talk. Of course, you may have to get the conversation going.

Try telling your child a little about your day or inquiring about her friends, before asking her how things are going.

If you aren't available to chauffeur, try to make a "date" on a regular basis to do something you both enjoy together, like cooking, hiking, or going to a concert or museum.

Once you're accustomed to time alone together and have created a comfortable level of sharing, try approaching a touchy subject.

Do Your Research

"Before I discuss topics like sex or drugs with my son," one father says, "I do a little homework. Often it's as simple as checking the phone book for hotlines or asking my doctor to recommend some pamphlets. If my son is not willing to discuss a touchy subject, I can still give him a number to call or an article to read. And, of course, I tell him I'm always available if he needs my help."

Avoid Confrontations

Don't mount a personal attack, deliver a sermon, or convene a family conference to open a dialogue on a tough subject. No matter how serious the subject, it's important not to be heavy-handed or focus exclusively on your child.

Say you've read an article or heard about a troubling situation from a colleague or a friend. Share this information with your teenager; then ask her opinion rather than offering yours. Suppose you're discussing AIDS, and you mention that many people feel "It can't happen to me." Has your child heard similar opinions? Do her friends discuss AIDS among themselves? What are some strategies to stay safe? When a teen feels that the two of you are exploring a subject together, she's likely to share her own thoughts.

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