Improving Family Communication

Families are under constant stress due to many factors. In two thirds of families, both parents work outside the home.  Thirty percent of American households are single-parented. More than ever, family members need communication skills to meet the multiple challenges of family life and to learn to how to share their emotional lives. Stress, disagreement and tension are not unusual in families, but they can become destructive due to unhealthy communication patterns.

Strengthen Healthy Communication

  1. Speak directly. Family members may not say what they mean. Rather, they use insinuation, questions, or criticisms to express their thoughts and feelings. Avoid confusion, misunderstanding, and doubt in family communication by talking with each other openly, directly, and authentically.

2. Be available. Just 10 minutes a day without distractions for you and your child or partner to talk can make a big difference in good communication. Turn off all electronics. Stop what you are doing and give your undivided attention.

3. Be a good listener. Listening to your child or partner can help them feel loved and valued. Ask about their feelings on a particular family matter. You do not have to agree to listen to them fully. This will help them calm down enough to listen to your thoughts later.

4. Show empathy. Do not tell the other person what to think or feel. Let them know that you understand what their feelings are. Give them a hug or gentle touch to acknowledge you under- stand their emotions. Do not minimize their feelings by saying “that’s silly”, or “you shouldn’t be angry”. Their feelings are real and to be respected.

5. Be a good role model. What kind of example are you setting with your words and tone? Avoid screaming or name calling; use feeling words such as “I am sad when you …”

6. Use family meetings to discuss issues. This allows each member to be heard and their opinion respected, and also reinforces that the total good of the group is the focus. Do not finger-point or manipulate others to come around to your viewpoint.

Keep Your Cool

When you feel a conversation getting heated, pause and step back.

  • Take a few, slow, deep breaths. It works to calm the body and mind.
  • Try to reflect back what you thought you heard the other family member say. What was intended and what was heard may have been very different.
  • Respectful listening means just that. Do not use abusive language or yell.
  • Do not hold grudges. Deal only with the present conversation. Dragging in disagreements from six months ago is harmful and distracting.

Daily life is full of stresses that require accommodation from family members. If your family is communicating in an unhealthy pattern that is creating more problems than solutions, perhaps it is time to take the next step and seek professional help. PAS is available to provide individual or family counseling to help create new pathways of communication and interaction within your family.

Featured Service: Parenting Consultation

Caregivers of children can receive telephonic consultation with a team of consultants whose expertise includes child development, behavior modification, speech-language, sensory processing, education (both special and gifted), and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) processes. The parenting consultants provide information and guidance in understanding typical and atypical development and suggest strategies and resources to address those concerns.

Examples of what our team of professionals can provide include:

  • Information on discipline, sleep issues, reinforcement strategies, potty training and temper tantrums
  • Guidance in determining if overall behavior is typical for the child’s age and environment
  • Assistance in identifying the potential cause(s) of behavior patterns
  • Simple, positive parenting strategies that really work
  • Information on developmental milestones such as language development, motor skills, sensory perception, and feeding skills
  • Guidance and resources to determine when school age children may need an Individualized Education Plan
  • Assistance in advocating for special or gifted services for children in daycare and school settings