Modern technology, tablets, PCs, smart phones have won the battle for the attention of our children and we are just too busy to do anything about it. The scenario where mom and dad are tired after the busy day at work, children are occupied with their own interests and no one really speaks to one another, has become common. Yet psychiatrists reiterate that communication is a key tool for healthy and productive functioning of the family in the social context. Communication plays a significant role in the relationships between the parents, the parents and the children and between children themselves. Communication represents much more than just talking – it’s an exchange of ideas, it’s showing and expressing love and compassion and mutual respect and understanding.
Communicating with your children
Communication within the family should be honest and pure, direct and positive. The manner in which parents talk to children changes with time. The tone used during the act of communicating is different with babies and infants with the one used when interacting with teenagers. For example, infants are just discovering the use of language and are generally more pampered; with 4-5 year olds you have to answer to numberless “why” and “how” questions; when they reach 9-10 you have to ask them honest and clear questions. Teenagers, on the other hand, must be made to feel comfortable and understood so that they can open up and confide to their parents.
Infants are very sensitive to the tone and the used dynamism in the voice of their mother. You can have your child in fear and tears just by shouting “no”, or “you can’t” and it would be more of a case of a raised voice than the meaning of the words and the denial of the concrete action or desire of the infant. This is why parents should be cautious with the tone and the force of their voice. Infants also want to spend as much time as possible in the arms of their parents because they feel more loved and secure. Holding your child in your arms is the perfect way of expressing your love for him or her. The parents should adapt to the age of their children, talk like them and use various songs and melodies to give instructions to children. You can give your child small tasks and responsibilities by using songs and tunes that they like. This is a very positive and functional method to educate your children because it helps children better memorize their instructions and the established rules and by using fun and game-like means you further open them for future rapport. In order to improve the vocabulary of the children, it is highly recommended for parents to speak more often to them, even though they know they might not be entirely understood.
When children start to go to school, they spend less and less time at home. Thus in order to establish a qualitative communication you have to find time and invest effort to get to their whole attention. Children at this age do not want to be treated as babies, so you have to adjust your tone accordingly. The most effective way of communication is a clean and direct approach, by asking them clear questions about their day in school and at home, without any open questions or vague comments. In this period of their lives, children are not so susceptible to the force of the voice of the parent, but tend to focus on the meaning of the words and what you said to them. It is important to try not to be upset and disappointed when you don’t approve of the actions of your child and always try to show your support when their behavior is exemplary.
The teenage years are a time of distress for many parents. It is the time when your kids become more mature and start to ask for some independency. During these years they become more introvert and withdrawn and have difficulty confiding with the parents. This is why you have to make the additional effort and provide them with support, make them feel comfortable with themselves and inspire them to more self-confidence. If you notice that your child does not feel the thoughts he/she expresses, try to not overburden them, but just remind them that you genuinely care how they feel. Declare your interest and allow them time… Try to understand their feelings and the motives behind their actions before reproaching them. Don’t force them to talk to you, allow them to approach you. Ask them questions and follow their thoughts and gestures and try to find the right time to talk to them, and no matter the gravity of the situation, never attack them with a flurry of questions.
Why communication matters?
Communication is not just an exchange of words, it is a mutual understanding of each-other’s thoughts and feelings, even without saying a word. It cannot be achieved by sitting in front of the PC, or through the smartphone. Family communication teaches children how to communicate further in their lives, verbal and especially nonverbal, since nonverbal communication is a basic aspect of communication between people and animals.
Facebook offers us the option to “like”, but in real life a look and a smile can say so much more. Unless we constantly promote “true” and qualitative communication among each other, in our families and social groups, the next generations won’t “know” how to communicate with one another and we’ll contribute to a society of alienation, solitude and, eventually and inevitably, aggression.
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