Healthy and effective communication is so much more than being able to put words together well or to be able to get your point across. There’s a second part to it as well; the listening part…
1) Be a good example
Children do what you do, not what you say, so you have to make sure that you model this positive behavior on a continues basis; whether when talking with your kids or when talking to other adults.
2) Active Listening
The number one attribute to healthy and effective communication is active listening. This means that when you are listening to your child, you have to focus your attention on her. Also important – don’t rush to answer, give advice or criticize. When she is talking, your job is to listen; that’s it. When in conversation with someone, the most meaning is derived from the non-verbal parts of the conversation. So when you are having a conversation with your child. Get down to her level, make eye contact and show through your facial expressions that you are really listening, finding the story interesting etc. If you cannot give such focused attention immediately; stop what you’re doing, tell your child that you would really like to listen to her, but that you cannot do so well when you’re busy. Ask her to give you about 5 or 10 minutes. Finish up what you’re doing and start your active listening.
3) Be sensitive to emotions
It makes the world of difference if, when talking with someone, they show that they understand you by acknowledging your emotions. So teach your child from a young age to identify different emotions. Use an emotions wall chart or simply discuss facial expressions and/body language when watching a movie together or reading a picture book. Also when he is telling you something, make sure to answer in ways like “that must have made you so happy?” or “I suppose you were really scared when it happened?” This also shows your child that you are really interested in what he is telling you.
4) Open ended questions
An open ended question is one that cannot be answered by a simple one worded answer like Yes, No or Maybe. Asking open-ended questions when having conversations sometimes takes some practise, but why not play the following game with your child. When talking about your day, each one of you has 4 questions that you are allowed to ask the other person. The one who gets the most information out of the other person through asking his/her 4 questions – wins!
5) Don’t assume anything
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to healthy communication is making assumptions when having conversations. Remember that there are two active role players in healthy communication. So when it’s your turn to listen to your child, double check what he is trying to say to you, by means of asking questions or telling him what you’re hearing. When it’s your turn to talk, keep your side short and on topic, so as to make it easier to understand your exact meaning. Also ask him what he thinks you meant by saying what you've said.
Healthy and effective communication between parent and child is a great way of ensuring that communication channels remain open. So really focus on your side of the conversation; model healthy and effective communication whenever you are talking or listening to someone and try and engage your child in conversational topics as often as possible.
Communication Workshops are held on a regular basis at Vita Nova in Pretoria.
Have a look at our Communication Workshop Schedule
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