Communication with Children

kids communication

How to Communicate with Your Child

“No matter what I do, I can’t talk to my child.” “My daughter and I start out having a reasonable conversation, but we always end up yelling at each other.” “My son just won’t open up to me.”

For many of us, of all the people that we interact with in our lives, the ones we have the most difficulty communicating with are our own children. While we have no trouble relating with other people, when it comes to our offspring, we run into trouble. This limitation pains and frustrates us. We seek advice and try to apply the techniques that are recommended to improve us in our roles as parents. But the problem persists and we are left still wondering what is going on.

But the answers are right in front of you. You are just missing the obvious questions. If you relate easily with everyone else, then how are relating differently with your children?

How do you relate with other people? Are you interested in their lives? Do you want to hear what they have to say? Do you listen to them? Do you have compassion for them? Are you honest with them? Do you easily talk about yourself? Are you unpretentious and real with them? Do you joke around?

And how do you relate with your children? How much do you know about their lives? How often do you really listen to them? Do you typically show compassion for them and what they are experiencing in their lives? Are you honest with them? Do you talk easily about yourself and reveal yourself to them? Are you yourself with them or do you relate from a parental role? Are you uncharacteristically serious with them?

The breakdown in communication between parents and children is often due to the fact that parents are not themselves. They are caught up in a role of “parent relating to child” instead of simply being the real people they are relating to the real people their children are.
Suggestions for being real with your children

Allow freedom of speech

Allow every member of the family the freedom to express any opinion and to experience any emotion without self-consciousness. Encourage an open exchange of feelings, thoughts, ideas and humor. This open atmosphere will facilitate communication that is straightforward, honest and compassionate. Each family member will be acknowledged, heard, felt and experienced by the others in such a way as to give the person a sense of their unique identity. The sense of humor expressed will not be sarcastic or cynical but will reflect the good feelings family members have toward each other and will acknowledge the human foibles and uniqueness of each member.

Show compassion and empathy

View each member of the family with compassion rather than with a cynical or judgmental eye. From this benign vantage point, everyone will be seen as the same: as people who because of their humanness are hurt, defended and flawed. Even children who act up will not be perceived as bad. They may be provoking, defiant, angry, stubborn, but they are not bad. Every adult and child will be regarded as basically having a good heart.

Have empathy of every family member, especially for your children. Empathizing will enable you to stay in contact with the deepest level of your child’s verbal and nonverbal communication. Parents who are in touch with their feelings from their own childhoods are capable of having true empathic understanding of their children. By maintaining a compassionate and empathic point-of-view during communications with your children, you will avoid making harsh or judgmental responses that are insensitive and hurtful to them. Rather than label or perceive your kid with a fixed identity, you will see the child as being in a state of constant change and growth.

Be honest

It is crucial that parents not mislead their children. The impact of misleading children or confusing their perception of reality can be more damaging than the negative experiences that are being covered up. It is of the utmost importance for children to learn to trust their perceptions, and this can only be achieved in an honest atmosphere.

Lies and illusions can fracture a child’s sense of reality. A parent’s integrity and truthfulness are necessary for a child’s emotional survival, just as food and drink are necessary for a child’s physical survival. To preserve their self-esteem, kids must maintain curiosity about reality. By allowing your children to view life realistically, including your shortcomings as a parent, you are providing them with a better basis to cope with life in general.

Be real

Being honest goes beyond telling the truth; being honest means being real. It means not acting out the role of the parent. This role interferes with your having genuine and personal communications with your children. In acting out the requisite parental behaviors, parents find themselves becoming patronizing, strategic, phony, and asking perfunctory unfeeling questions.

It is important to be open about yourself with your children. Talk to them personally about your feelings and life experiences much as you would to a friend. This does not imply that you “dump” your problems on your children or make immature demands on them for comfort or reassurance; rather it implies sharing your world with them and allowing your kids to share their world with you.

It is vital to children’s development that each one of them is related to as a real person by a real person. From the time they are born, children search the faces of their parents for genuine feeling. They cannot relate to someone who is applying childrearing techniques. Children are desperate to connect with the real people behind the parental roles. When you dispense with roles and behave in a manner that is natural and personal, your children experience you as human and lovable. Children want to feel the humanity of their parents.

Therefore as a parent, you have to develop your capacity to relate personally with your children. They need you to relate to them directly. They need you to listen to them with interest, to respond sensitively and realistically to their communications, and to be forthright with them about your own thoughts and feelings.

Related Books:

Compassionate Child-Rearing

Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice


About the Author

Carolyn Joyce Carolyn Joyce joined PsychAlive in 2009, after receiving her M.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California. Her interest in psychology led her to pursue writing in the field of mental health education and awareness. Carolyn's training in multimedia reporting has helped support and expand PsychAlive's efforts to provide free articles, videos, podcasts, and Webinars to the public. She now works as an editor for PsychAlive and a communications specialist at The Glendon Association, the non-profit mental health research organization that produced PsychAlive.

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One Comment

kwenchia maricol

am interested in learning from you because i have a project i have to realise at the end of febuary concerning children and hygiene in primary and nursery schools

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