Ten Ways to Improve Communication With Your Child (Teens Too!)

We may talk using words, but our body language, facial expressions, gestures and actions – and even our silences – also convey a message to our children. The following are some of the best ways to open up communication with your child, whether a tiny tot or a tremendous teen.

When we’re frustrated with our kids, it’s tempting to say things like, “I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall!” or “Why don’t you talk to me anymore?” But it’s far more effective – though challenging at times! – to come from a place of love and acceptance. This can be expressed in many ways, but the essence of a great conversation is: You are my child… I love you and want to help you in any way I can. I’m struggling to understand you. What do you need from me?

 Having strong communication with your child is especially useful if you lead a mobile lifestyle. Having meaningful chats with your child during times of transition can help to ease the challenges as well as deepen your relationship… and you’ll both feel stronger.

 At the end of the day, you know your child better than anyone. and you are best placed to help them. Below are some pointers to guide you on your way.

  • Listen more than you talk. As philosopher Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
  • Empathize with the child and their message. Avoid giving instant solutions –advice can come later, when/if they ask for it.
  • Clearly communicate acceptance of the child and what they are trying to say.
  • Talk with children, rather than at them. Facilitate a two-way conversation, instead of giving a lecture. Children of all ages want to be understood, not preached to. They are also far more likely to take your advice on board if they have felt included in the conversation.
  • Requests are best made in a simple, positive, one- or two-step process. Do not demand. Ask kindly and with respect.
  • Communicate with your children at eye level, rather than from above. Take a seat together, or crouch down with young ones. This way the communication is both less threatening and more supportive.
  • If you are raising Third Culture Kids – children who are growing up outside of their parents’ home culture(s) – make sure you discuss each move with your child and prepare them for it. It’s also crucial to remind your child that friendship and love are never gone. Yheir loved ones from a previous country/school are not gone, and online technology allows us to stay connected more easily.
  • Reflect daily on the following:
    – In my interactions with my child today, did I give them a feeling of being accepted and valued?
    – How did I connect with my child today? Did I open doors of communication or lose opportunities to do so?
    – What will I do tomorrow to keep our communication open and strong?
  • Gather knowledge and increase your awareness of great parenting techniques. Here are some excellent books to start with:
    How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    – How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk, also by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by Ruth E. Van Reken and David C. Pollock
  • Remind yourself regularly of all the above steps, giving yourself time to fully grasp and implement them.

Remember there is no perfect parent, child, or family. We all do our best with what we know. Opening up communication with your child is a practical way to better understand their emotions and behaviours, and to strengthen your bond.

Written by Vivian Chiona, Psychologist, Founder and CEO of Expat Nest