Kids start learning how to communicate with their world from the moment they are born. They are programmed to vocalize and use their bodies in ways that are communicate their needs. Their cries, squeaks, squeals, screams, and even their giggles tell us what they need, along with the squirming and flailing of their tiny bodies. It is our job, as parents, to interpret the meaning of these sounds and gestures, and then to respond effectively in a nurturing manner. We teach our children about the world around them every time we meet, or fail to meet, their needs, by what we say and do, or don’t say or do.
These same children grow up to be teenagers. You may even have one or more of these adolescent people in your life. These teens have spent plenty of time watching us. They have experience communicating effectively and not so effectively. When they venture out to navigate their world, it all starts at home. Effective families start with effective parenting; effective parents use effective communication.
During the teen years, many parents feel as though they’re experiencing technical problems when communicating with their teen. Conversations are punctuated: “Huh,” “I don’t know,” “Whatever,” “Leave me alone; go away,” “You don’t even know me at all,” “I HATE my life,” along with various grunts and the dramatic eye rolling. Often the parent was merely asking how their teen’s day went. The chances are, if you’ve got a teen in your life, you know this scenario quite well.family members’ day. Is there family time?
Our children are watching our every move.
Take a deep cleansing breath.
Communication problems happen. We unknowingly create patterns of behaviors, and when we don’t address the ineffective behaviors, the patterns become ingrained in our families.
There is a solution, a resolution. First, each family member must honestly believe that the interactions within their family can be improved. The next step is for all family members to agree to being part of that solution. And here is where the magic exists.
In my previous article, “Nurturing Understanding,” I stated that, “Communication involves so much more than what we say. Partners must choose to improve how they communicate with each other by honestly sharing how they feel and what they are expecting from the other. Learning to communicate better can bring your relationship to a whole new level and reduce stress and conflict.” We can apply this same idea to communicating within our own families, between spouses and children. It’s important to remember that we, as parents, are helping our children, yes, even our teens, to learn how to function in society and it all starts at home. It starts with mutual love and respect. Our children will learn from our actions—both good and bad.
Behavioral Patterns can be recreated to fit the family’s needs. Parents are empowered to systematically, step-by-step, change their family’s internal system. They can change how they relate to each other, with gentleness, honesty, and courage to take back their position as parent.
A change in the family’s current system of behaviors, or patterns of interacting with each other, involves the commitment of all family members to be strong enough to Actively Listen, to reply using I-statements, show respect to each family member, and receive the same respect back.
To start this initial step, the parents will need to carve out small windows of uninterrupted “parent time” so they can create the framework for the changes they would like to introduce to the family. Then parents schedule frequent, uninterrupted family time to discuss their ideas of changes with the family, and encourage their children to appropriately use active listening and I-statements in response.
Today’s parents can empower their family to make the changes that will create happy, healthy, respectful children and peaceful nurturing parents. I believe in the power of each of you. I know your journey is just one step away!
© Copyright 2010 by Beth S. Pumerantz, LMFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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