Strategies to Build a Stronger Family
With so many parents working full time jobs outside of the home and kid’s busy schedules, it’s easy to forget to set aside “family time.” But our families are just like anything else in life. You have to work to make them stronger. Family communication is vital in building stronger family. But sometimes we just don’t know how to open the lines of family communication. The following are some practical strategies to building a stronger family and opening the lines of family communication.
1. Caring and Appreciation. Take time to share positive aspects of each other. Family communication starts with focusing on the positive. Even if a family member makes many mistakes, take the time to appreciate the positive things every member of your family does and celebrate their achievements. A simple way to express your caring and appreciation is through love notes. Tuck short notes into your children’s lunch boxes or under their pillows. Also, spending quality time with your child is important to show just how much you care about him. Eat meals together, watch a movie, take a walk together. Another way to show appreciation for your family is to use and practice good manners. Treat everyone in the household with respect and always compliment good behavior. Thank family members for their efforts. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in building better family communication. A final fun thing to do to show appreciation to your family is to make gift certificates and follow through with them. Make gift certificates that allow your child to skip out on a chore or pick the family movie are simple things your child will enjoy.
2. Practice family traditions. A family tradition gives children a sense of belonging and security. They give children feelings of warmth and closeness to their families. Traditions can be any event that you do regularly and may be as simple as a bedtime story or biscuits and gravy for Saturday morning breakfast.
3. Work Together. Strong families make decisions and solve problems together. This is where open lines of family communication make the difference in functional families and dysfunctional families. Parents are the leaders of the family, but children should be allowed to voice their opinions and participate in discussions that affect the whole family. Of course, these discussions should be age appropriate. Let your toddler choose the cereal while grocery shopping. Let your teenager choose something the family does on the family vacation. Letting your children make choices will also help them grow up to be responsible adults who can make good choices on their own. It also helps them feel connected to the family because you are sending the message that what they think is important too. The most important thing in effective family communication is that your children feel like they are “heard.” This, of course, doesn’t mean that they always get their way. But allowing them to voice their opinions and know that you hear them and have taken their opinions into consideration makes a huge difference in creating open family communication.
4. Be flexible and open to change. Keeping routines and schedules is important in developing a healthy and stable family with good family communication, but adhering to those routines without flexibility opens families up to strained relationships. Families who are flexible and open to change are stronger families. Parents can set an example of flexibility by offering to do a nightly chore for a child who has an unusually heavy load of homework. Parents should also be aware that as children get older, their responsibilities and freedoms should change. There are also a number of life changes that families need to adapt to. Divorce, sickness, death, family moves—with all of these events, and more, families who are flexible and adapt to these changes are more likely to remain strong families.
If your family is having problems openly communicating, it may be time to speak with a Family Counselor. Family Counselors at Tender Hearts are trained to help you and your family develop skills to openly and effectively communicate so that you have strong relationships build on mutual respect. Call today to learn more!
Communicating with Teenagers: 5 Suggestions to Improve Your Family Communication Skills
Does your family communication leave much to be desired? Does communicating with teenagers in your household seem like a never-ending battle? Let’s say you ask your teen to do something as simple as pick up his tennis shoes and he explodes into a screaming fit over how “You just don’t understand him.” Or maybe your daughter has been giving you the silent treatment ever since you asked her to hurry up one morning before school.
Deep down you probably understand what’s going on. Your teen feels like you just don’t understand him or her, but you really do. You remember what it was like during your own teenage years, but getting your teen to understand that you really do understand is just something that’s not going to happen any time soon, at least not without some extra help!
Suggestions to Improve Family Communication with a Teenager
1. Start with Understanding.
Try to begin every interaction with letting your teen know that you understand what she is going through. No matter how hard it is, no matter how much you may disagree with your teen’s perspective or actions, no matter how much you simply just don’t understand—try to let them feel like you understand them. This will open their ears and their minds to what you have to say. Family Communication with a teenager will go absolutely no where if they tune you out. Your first objective in communicating with your teen is simply getting them to open up enough to listen to you.
2. Eliminate Emotion.
Again, this is very difficult when communicating with teenagers. It’s something that will take practice, but whatever your teen tells you, don’t take it personal. Remember, they may look like an adult, they may want to be an adult, but their brains are not fully developed in many ways. Sometimes your teen will make bad choices. Sometimes your teen will make decisions that you don’t agree with. It isn’t personal. Your teen is just trying to figure out who they are and be themselves. They aren’t acting this way to personally hurt you. They just need a good parent to guide them as they learn to make better choices.
3. Ask good questions.
Ask your teen for her ideas and help problem-solve with her. Instead of asking your teen, “Why can’t you make it to the bus stop on time?” try saying, “I’ve noticed you’ve been missing the bus lately. Do you have any ideas on how you can make it to the bus stop on time?” If she doesn’t have any ideas, try brainstorming some with her and let her pick the solution she thinks will work best for her. You’re more likely to get “buy in” from your teenager if she has had the opportunity to make the choice herself. This simple step can do wonders for your Family Communication.
4. Stop trying to control your teenager.
You don’t need your teen’s cooperation. She’s old enough to begin making decisions for herself and dealing with the natural consequences of her decisions. Stand firm. Stand your ground. And let the chips fall where they may. For example, you don’t need your teen to stop screaming at you. You can simply stop arguing with her and walk away. When your teenager doesn’t have someone trying to control her, she has no one to rebel against. This doesn’t mean that you let your teenager do whatever, whenever. This means you make your rules and expectations clear and direct. You also make the consequences of breaking those rules clear and direct. And you follow through firmly 100% of the time.
5. Be calm.
Don’t even try communicating with teenagers when either you or they or both are emotional. Family Communication will go nowhere. In the heat of the moment, it’s best to hit the pause button. Take a personal time out. Take several if you need to. Come back to the conversation when you’re both calm. And don’t let your teen drag you into a fight. If you feel them antagonizing you, walk away. Tell your teen that you need some time to think about it and walk away.
Don’t feel bad if you slip up on any of these tips from time to time. Effective Family Communication with Teenagers is a long and winding path. You’ll mess up from time to time, but if you consistently stick to following these 5 suggestions, you’ll find that over time communicating with your teenager using good Family Communication skills gets easier. You’ll begin to experience less of the silent treatment and fighting than you did before.
If you use these suggestions and Family Communication is still a constant struggle, you might consider our Teen Counseling or Family Counseling services to enlist the help of an experienced professional so you can shorten the learning curve when it comes to using effective communication skills.