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[ 2009-10-20 09:00 ]

7 tips for better family communication


Do you regularly get together to talk with your family about problems or the day's events? Or is your idea of family communication nodding to one another as you pass each other on the way to the bathroom? Conversation is the key to any strong relationship, but family communication is especially important. Want to improve your family's communication skills? Try implementing these simple steps...

1. Create opportunities for talking.

It's no secret that Americans are overworked, overcommitted and overscheduled. Parents rush home from work to to take them to soccer practice, piano lessons and Girl Scout meetings, all before hitting the drive-through window to pick up fast food for dinner. Mix in kids who'd rather text their friends than chat with Mom or Dad, and we have a family communication crisis.

So what can you do? Make time for talking by reducing the number of activities your family is involved in each week − the time it frees up for communication will be invaluable. And if you do find yourself in the car running from place to place, make a point to turn off the radio, the cell phones and the personal game players, and use that opportunity to catch up on the day's activities.

2. Insist on family meals.

In addition to bringing everyone together for a wrap-up of the day's activities, insisting on a few standing family meals creates ritual and routine that kids come to expect and look forward to. Use the family dinner table as an opportunity to share what's going on in family members' lives.


3. Go on individual dates with your children.

Spending time with each of your children lets them know that they matter and aren't getting lost in the hubbub of a busy day or large family. Older teens might enjoy going out for a hamburger or a latte at their favorite coffee place. Younger children often enjoy going to the supermarket, especially when you let them select their favorite cereal or special dessert. Don't forget your spouse or the older family members who live near you. Regular date nights for couples and lunches with aging parents keeps those relationships healthy, as well.

4. Remember the 80/20 rule.

When trying to improve any relationship, listening is far more important than talking, so when it comes to family communication, listen four times longer than you speak. Likewise, think twice about what you say before you say it. Sometimes a parent's first reaction is to rant and scream, especially to negative news. Do your best to avoid this, and if you do verbally explode before your child is finished, apologize quickly and assure him or her that you're now ready to listen.

5. Use technology to your advantage.

If the family computer's been relegated to homework duties or surfing the Web, why not put it to work by creating a family newsletter that you publish monthly, just for your immediate family? Ask everyone in the family to contribute "articles" and information about themselves, then print out a copy for each person and hand deliver it. Or maybe you could create a family Web site or blog. This would be especially helpful to families that find keeping in touch more difficult as the kids grow up and move away. Or put your texting abilities to work to let your loved ones know you're thinking about them. If your son is facing a big test one afternoon, for instance, send him a text message at lunch letting him know you're behind him.

6. Create family traditions.

Tucking the kids into bed at night, setting up a family movie night, attending religious services or creating special holiday treats are all examples of family traditions. Family members come to expect and appreciate these traditions, seeing them as opportunities to come together as a unit. If your family is short on traditions, there's no reason you can't start some now. Why not set up a bowling night once a month? Or grow a family garden? Or visit the same spot every year for summer vacation?

Maintaining positive family communications benefits your family in so many ways. Children feel comfortable sharing their problems with parents, reducing the risk of peers having an undue influence on their lives. Parents remain connected and intimate with each other and their children, strengthening the family bonds. And all family members develop effective communication styles that can improve the quality of their relationships beyond the family home. Why not start talking today?







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