Six habits to get better at communicating with your child
The relationship that you have with your child is vital – children who have a secure attachment with their parent (or main caregiver) stand a much better chance of developing happy and content relationships with others as they grow up. As parents, you are modelling what it feels like to be loved and feel emotionally secure; you are setting the expectations your child will have for their future relationships.
Communication is an important part of this relationship, but between the rush of daily life and children who are reluctant to open up (or are even just tired), it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Here are six habits you can introduce to family life to help your child feel valued, encourage conversation and build a strong parent-child relationship.
1. Nurture their natural curiosity
Research shows that mothers are the most quizzed people in the UK, being asked on average one question every two minutes 36 seconds – more every hour than a primary school teacher, a doctor or a nurse! So while it is understandable that parents may get a little frustrated by the constant questions, try to appreciate how inquisitive and imaginative your child is. Their questions offer a wonderful insight into their world, and by taking the time to answer – whether that’s an informed answer, something a bit silly, or asking for their opinion – you are showing your child that their thoughts are valued.
2. Get your child to help with chores
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the dull day-to-day tasks that take up so much of our time, such as cooking or doing the laundry. By getting your child involved in these jobs, you don’t need to find as much ‘extra’ time to spend together. Most children love helping (some might be more reluctant!) – it may be quicker and less stressful without their input, but you will strengthen your relationship and teach them to be more responsible. Also, ask (and take) their advice on things – by taking their suggestions seriously you will make your child feel good and gain their respect.
3. Take your child out and about with you
Following on from habit #2, getting your child to accompany you on shopping trips and dog walks is another way to squeeze some time together into a busy day. If you have young children and no-one at home to look after them, it’s likely you do this regularly anyway; but even if it’s not a necessity, why not do it anyway? Particularly if you have more than one child, they can take turns so you can get some one-to-one time with each of them. Never underestimate the amount of conversation you can get just sitting in a car together – older children may even be more open to discussion when they don’t feel the pressure of a sit-down, face-to-face conversation.
4. Turn off YOUR technology
This is a big one and really shows your child that you value them and want to listen/spend time with them. We are living in a society where technology is available all the time – we get frustrated with children for being glued to screens, but we can be just as guilty of constantly checking our social media and emails on our phones. Children do pick up on this and it sends the wrong message; that it is okay to use devices when you should be interacting with someone, and that your phone/tablet is more important than they are. Of course there are times when technology is fine – like when they get home from school (or you get home from work), and just want to collapse in front of the TV. But try to have some technology-free time every day (for the whole family), to limit screen use and give your child your full attention.
5. Eat together
Family mealtimes are a great opportunity to get away from technology, and to discuss and share that day’s events with one another. It can be difficult to fit this into our busy schedules – research shows that one in three children eat their evening meal in front of the TV. But as well as being a great way to encourage conversation, there is a whole host of benefits to family mealtimes – it is linked with healthier food choices, a lower risk of eating disorders and obesity, and is even better school performance. Be realistic about what your family can manage; if you can’t fit daily family mealtimes around working times and after-school activities, schedule a family meal just once or twice a week instead.
6. Have fun together
Play together, laugh together, have fun together and build memories together. When you play with your child you will not only get closer but you will also get to know each other better. You can also use it as an opportunity to teach your child valuable life skills: turn taking, sharing, winning and losing respectfully can all be taught through playing games. Take a look at our free family game ideas as well as our tried and tested board games for all ages for some inspiration. Get silly with your child and show them the side of you they don’t often get to see!
Creating a culture where your child feels valued and loved will help them grow into confident, happy adults. Try adding just one of these habits into your life to make more opportunities to communicate with your child and build a strong relationship with them as they grow older.Tags: children, communication, communication skills, kids, parenting, parents
This post was written by Claire Gillies