06 Feb Talking the Talk: Communicating with Kids
If kids came with an instruction manual, one of the first chapters would be “How to Communicate.” It’s hard stuff! Unfortunately, no such manual exists, but here are a couple of tips.
Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
This is very possibly the best thing you can do when communicating with your child, regardless of their age. And we’re talking about active listening, not passive listening. Passive listening is when you’re half-heartedly listening to your child while you’re going through your emails, cooking dinner, or watching the football game on TV. You may think you’re multitasking, but you’re not paying as much attention to your child as you might think you are. And they know it, too.
When you’re an active listener, a couple of things happen. For one thing, you’re actually able to absorb and process what your child is saying to you, which allows you to better communicate with them. At the same time, you’re sending a message to your child that they’re important enough to have your full attention. This means they may be more willing to talk to you about things in the future because they know you’re willing to listen, and they might become more receptive to what you have to say.
If you want to work on your active listening skills, try something called “reflective listening” when appropriate. Essentially, listen to what your child is saying, then summarize it and gently repeat it back to them. We don’t mean just parrot it back; instead, analyze what they’re telling you, then say it back to them using different words. This helps you grasp what they’re saying, and it lets them know you’re listening and understanding them.
Note that we say “talk” and not “solve all their problems for them.” Part of being a kid is figuring out how to solve issues. When we force our solutions on them, we’re not helping anyone. In this video, Dr. Michael Rich talks about how we need to avoid putting ourselves in the position of “the expert” and, instead, help and guide our child in figuring out their own solution. Letting our kids take the lead helps them to mature and develop.
For more information on the web, check out this article on good communication and these tips for talking to your teen from healthychildren.org. If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding communicating with your child, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.