By: Patti Langlais, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist
Parenting has never been easy and it only seems to be getting more complicated in today’s busy, high pressure lifestyle. It can feel almost overwhelming for many parents to balance the pressures of career and finance with the complexity of supporting their children physically and emotionally. Although every family has its unique set of challenges, the need for effective and non reactive communication is universal. Effective communication is especially important to both navigate and cultivate strong relationships through the adolescent and teen years.
Effective communication begins with first listening and allowing your child to express their thoughts, feelings and perspectives. It is important to monitor your tone of voice, body language, facial expressions and overall reaction. Children and teens find it very difficult and intimidating to share their inner world with their parents for fear of judgement, conflict or rejection.
It is important to create common ground and a place of connection. Begin with an agreement in a part of the conversation before attempting to influence their logic or disagree. It is important to be conscious of your emotional state through the conversation and consider taking a break if you or your child need it. It is easy to undermine the conversation and connection with emotional reactions or statements.
As with any respectful dialogue, be sure to not interrupt or become distracted with forming a response. It is valuable to notice your expectations. Often we have unspoken and, therefore, failed expectations that lead to emotional injury and conflict. Do your best to set them aside while listening. When appropriate negotiate your expectations with your child or teen to ensure they understand what’s expected of them.
Ideally communication with your child is done in a calm, open and loving discussion, however when emotions run high and the conversation derails into conflict or disconnect, it is important to repair communication. Honest reflection is a skillful part of effective communication and can be done when both of your stress levels have decreased.
Like so many things practice is the key to mastery and often includes its fair share of failure. Inviting your children to engage in discussion with you allows you both to practice, creates a sense of familiarity which reduces stress in more challenging dialogues, and enhances the connection and bond you share.
Patti Langlais, M.A
Couples & Family Counsellor