Keeping Your Family Talking: 6 Tips that Work at Any Age

Keeping your family talking for Great Communication Through the Early Years
Image courtesy of Abby Batchelder

Sometimes as a mom of littles it can feel like the majority of your conversations throughout the day revolve around food going in and going … yeah. You know what I'm talking about. But even with kids in the preschool age range, you can begin developing habits of family discussions that will last for a lifetime.

According to a paper published by Virginia Tech, “Effective communication is an important characteristic of strong, healthy families. Research identifies communication as an essential building block of strong marital, parent-child, and sibling relationships.” 

Effective communication is an important characteristic of strong, healthy families. Research identifies communication as an essential building block of strong marital, parent-child, and sibling relationships.

I liked the reminder that communication is both verbal and non-verbal. It is important for a child to feel heard, appreciated, and valued as a unique individual. 

Here's how we keep our family talking so we can remain connected for the long term:  

look at my eyes dad - tips for communicating with kids
Image via Angela England

1. Look at Each Other when Speaking

How often do you see groups in a public location go an entire meal without any eye contact at all? A common phrase in our home is, “Please look at my eyes.” This shows the other person that you have given them your complete attention. I remember when my daughter was about 15 months old she was trying to get my husband's attention and finally just grabbed his face with her hands and said, “Yook a my eyes, Dad!” Message received, little one. 

Image via Flickr/rahego
Image via Flickr/rahego

2. Create Tech-Free Zones and Times

I'm uber connected…laptop, iPhone, iPad, Kindle,Wifi and mobile hotspots…I'm a walking bluetooth receiver some days. But at the dinner table, when we are eating together, no one is on their anythings. Ever. The world can wait 50 minutes while I enjoy my family. You'll find yourself laughing more during those precious minutes than the rest of the day combined, most nights! 

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An article by Rutgers recently announced that family meal times are on the rise in the last ten years, as families began to understand that our business was keeping us from connecting with each other. When families could not have dinner together, they were getting creative about their together meal times, planning lunches or breakfasts at a time they could be together. Smart!

Image via Flickr/jenny818
Image via Flickr/jenny818

3. Ask for High Points and Low Points

Instead of painting things as “good and bad” we will ask each person around the dinner table to share the high point and the low point of their day. This gives even very young children the chance to begin to express their unique opinions. Kids soon realize that what their brother thought was awesome, wasn't something they cared much about. And that's OK. This self-awareness lays a strong foundation for true self-esteem later in life. Especially when parents are unplugged and able to back up what they are sharing. (see #2 above!)

Driving time is good chatting time - communicating as a family tips and tricks
Photo by Angela England

4. Turn off the Radio in the Car When You're Happy

When everyone is in a good mood (not sullen or wanting some quiet time) turn off the radio in the car and let them talk. Take part in their conversations – even the silly ones! One time we had a 30 minute conversation about clouds – it started out talking about the shapes of clouds. Then weather. Then the water cycle. Then back to cloud shapes in typical rambling-three-year-old fashion. About two weeks later, on a particularly stressful and busy day, my middle son said, “Hey mom remember the other day (everything after yesterday is “the other day”) when we talked about clouds?” “Yes.” “I wish if we could do that ok.” 

Image via Flickr/sylvar
Image via Flickr/sylvar

5. Blast the Music and Dance When the Grumpies Are Around

Remember how communication can be non-verbal too? Hugs, high-fives, thumbs-up, etc are all important non-verbal cues to your child. We like to “dance away the grumpies” at our house when stress is beginning to pile up and Monster-Mom is starting to rear her ugly head.

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 Have you ever tried to be grumpy and angry when you're dancing around to 50s rock music with your kids all dancing and launching with you? Yeah…it doesn't happen. Dance away the grumpies together and you'll not only help your kids learn better coping skills but you won't have to look at Monster-Mom in the mirror as often. 

Image via Flickr/ninnet
Image via Flickr/ninnet

6. Ask Their Opinions About Things

This can work in SO many ways. Instead of just choosing a book to read, give them three options and let them decide. Or when you finish a read aloud, you can ask them a question based on the book. Don't make it like a quiz, but rather like a getting-to-kn0w-you question. Instead of saying, “What did Jack do when the pirate stole his treasure?” ask “If a pirate stole YOUR treasure, what would you do?”or “What would you keep in your treasure chest?” These open-ended questions can give you a lot of insights into what your kids are excited, or anxious about. 

Communicating with your kids isn't a tough thing. It just needs to be a constant awareness of them throughout the day. A decision to be intentional about pouring yourself into them.

These are just a handful ideas and I'm sure you have many others.

How do you begin to form good communication habits with your young children?

 

 

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Keeping Your Family Talking: 6 Tips that Work at Any Age

Angela England is a renaissance woman who doesn't let five children stop her from many pursuits, interests and tasks. Angela is a freelance writer, professional blogger, speaker, labor doula, massage therapist and can usually be found with a coffee nearby. Angela recently published her first book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (more or less) and has since published her first Untrained Housewife Guide - Getting Prepared. ... More

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1 comment

  1. mommy nhoj says:

    Communication is very essential in every relationship. These are helpful tips!

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