Learn essential tips on how to improve your communication with your kids from the experts at SISD
5 February 2019| Last updated on 6 February 2019
You can be involved in their lives by engaging in conversation with them that yields genuine fruit about their experiences and wellbeing.
And of course, it’s important to remember that communication is and will always be a two-way street.
What is effective communication with your child?
Good communication with your child is fundamentally tied to understanding their experiences and respecting what they’re going through. They need to feel aware that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.
For example, in the case of
In his 2003 book, Staying Connected To Your Teenager: How To Keep Them Talking To You And How To Hear What They’re Really Saying, parenting expert Michael Riera, Ph.D., says:
“The advantages of writing notes to your teenagers are twofold. One, writing notes involves you more in your teenager’s life. You are actively making observations and taking time to communicate them in a way that your teenager can take in. You are doing something concrete to strengthen your connection with your teenager. Two, you are respecting your teenager’s world. You know he is self-conscious and defensive, so you write a note because it slips by the self-consciousness and defensiveness. You also give him the best opportunity to take in fully what you have written – he reads it in privacy somewhere, in his room or car. And best of all, it’s something that he can keep and refer to in the future, perhaps even when he is down on himself or his relationship with you. “
You should also accommodate the developmental stages that your children are going through. For example, once again in the critical adolescent stage, teenage behavior can become erratic and negative, due to
Above all, you need to position yourself as a “safe space,” a trusted parent who is willing to listen without judgement, rather than a parent known for lashing out in anger or lecturing immediately.
Techniques for effective communication
One of the best ways to foster effective communication is to express interest in your child’s experiences, but not in a cookie-cutter way that seems disingenuous.
“How was your day?” is one of the least interesting ways to get started, whether you’re a child or adult, after all!
Asking the right questions
A great way to start is to ask meaningful questions that allow you to engage with them, at the end of every day. Here are a few good ones to look into.
- 1. What made you laugh today?
We’ve previously discussed how positive emotions are an important part of all children’s development, and engaging with your child on the basis of positivity is a great way to encourage this.
- 2. What made you sad today?
Children go through the entire spectrum of emotions every day, and sometimes it can be difficult for them to process, especially when they’re too young to truly understand cause and effect. By discussing their sadness as well as their happiness, you’ll be able to get an idea of what pains them in school, and how you can work together to fix things.
- 3. Who did you play with today?
Play is such an important part of child development that United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child had to go right and say it, back in 1989. Play builds character and relationships. By looking out for who your child is playing with, you can get an idea of the relationships they’re forming. This works for teenagers as well, though the term to use is “hang out.”
- 4. What are you most proud of today?
A child’s feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small or big their achievement is, must be cultivated. Discuss what made your child proud and praise them for it, or show interest in how they achieved it themselves.
- 5. What’s the most interesting thing you learned today?
Your child will be constantly learning things in school that may fill them with wonder and joy. Discuss these with them and show the same wonder; few things can inspire the desire to keep learning than a parent showing interest as well.
Working with the school
One thing that every parent should be doing is working with the school to ensure that they’re aware of how their child is doing. This can mean anything from attending parent-teacher conferences, to scheduling one-on-one sessions with faculty and guidance counselors.
It’s especially helpful if the school hosts events that can promote this understanding and communication. At Swiss International School in Dubai, we make sure that we provide ample opportunities for parents and teachers to discuss student welfare.
For one, we have three parent-teacher conferences every year, during which the sentiments and concerns of students are discussed among the parent body and the faculty. We pride ourselves on having conferences with students, not without them, and the inclusion of the student body in these conferences allows us to learn how to communicate with each other, alongside each other.
This is a great time to learn exactly the kind of experiences that your child is having on-campus. This is especially useful for boarding students.
We also have monthly pastoral care events during which we bring specialists to talk about issues and concerns that parents have raised, and so that parents may learn more and provide feedback about howe support young people.
In addition, counselors and the pastoral care team are always available during these events to discuss and exchange, or even schedule private appointments for other concerns.
All of this is carefully carried out as part of a dialogue that takes place among parents, teachers and students. We have a parent forum committee, as well as class parents, who facilitate this dialogue.
The International Baccalaureate as a communications advocate
The International Baccalaureate is the foundation not just of our curriculum, but in the values that we wish to instill in our children.
One of the most important components of the IB Learner Profile is that of the communicator. It’s not just the parents’ job to be effective at communication, of course; through the teachings of the IB, every student becomes a better communicator, allowing them to more meaningfully express themselves.
Through the IB, we teach our students to communicate more fluently, and help develop their relationships with other people, including their parents. This is reflected not only in classroom teachings but in every interaction we have with our children.
Our Founding Head of Primary, Mrs. Sabah Rashid, has some advice to offer to help foster communication with your children:
“A commitment to developing skills can support communication between adults and communication with children. Here are a few strategies that work for me.
- Demonstrate being present in the conversation by placing mobile devices off my person and outside of visible and physical reach
- Clarify understanding by paraphrasing to the speaker what I understand of what has been said
- Draw out another’s thinking by asking ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions, instead of ‘why’ questions e.g. What made you do that? versus Why did you do that?
- Using I-statements to take ownership of my feelings rather than implying that they are caused by another person. g I feel…when…I would like…
- In my experience, modeling the behavior I want to see in others, whether children or adults, has longer lasting benefits.”