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Tips for talking — and listening — to your children

Updated: July 21, 2012 6:00AM

If you are having issues communicating with your children, you are not alone. It takes communication skills to hear and be heard — whether it is your boss you are talking to, or your children.

♦ Each child is an individual and therefore you may need a different communication strategy for each child. They may not hear things or may not communicate with you in the ways you are used to. Just as everybody has a different learning style, it is possible your child hears things differently than you do when communicating. Therefore, it is important to check in with your child before you run into a major misunderstanding i.e.: “Did you really mean you hate me, or are you just mad right now?”

♦ One great way to become comfortable communicating with your children is to spend time having fun together. Get to the park, go grab a pizza, play some video games, toss the ball around, have a picnic. Days spent like this are money in the bank when you have to disagree with your child.

♦ Every time you show your children affection (hugs, cuddles and kisses) it makes them feel loved. Another benefit: Trust builds between you — and trust is crucial to good, healthy communication. The need for trust never ends, no matter how old your child.

♦ Many children (indeed, many adults) are not the best communicators and may lack the vocabulary to fully express how they feel. You may offer the right word, but don’t assume you are right until your child agrees with the meaning.

♦ Keep a calm head. Try not to overreact to your child’s possible overreaction to a situation or disagreement with you. Hard as it can be there are some situations where your child just wants to be heard and then figure things out for himself.

♦ If your child is behaving in ways you don’t like, restate your values. Go into detail as much as you can, explaining why and how you came to this value. Express your concern for your child’s acting in defiance of the value and say you are disappointed with her choice.

♦ Set a time for a weekly family get together, a time where you can discuss what is coming up this week and discuss any lingering conflicts, hurts and concerns.

♦ Keep your comments to the children’s behavior, not the children themselves. “That was a poor choice” vs. “You are bad.”

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