Posted on: October 26, 2018
Communication is an integral part of who we are as people. Being able to communicate in our family relationships is something that can be taken for granted, when in reality it comes much more easily to some families than to others. A lack of communication can make us feel misunderstood and ignored, leading to hurt, stress and anger.
Communication is also the way we share our thoughts and feelings, the way we connect to others in our family, and how we develop trust and caring. If we have trouble with this, there may be problems within the relationships that can lead to resentment.
Seeking family counseling with a professional counselor is an effective way to open up communication. At Edgewood Clinical Services, we know that there are multiple causes for family difficulties, and each of us is complex, with our own fears, hopes, wants and needs.
Whenever possible, family therapy starts at the top. Once parents can be on the same page, we can include the children in on the discussion.
Once the entire family is involved, we help parents listen to, and work with, their children. Kids and teens benefit from need the opportunity to vent their frustrations, and it is important for parents need to hear and attempt to understand their children’s point of view.
If you would like to get started at home, there are a number of things you can do to work on building effective family communication.
First, communicate often. Of course, this requires spending time together, something that is increasingly more difficult in today’s culture. Getting creative with this can yield good results—talk in the car, turn off the TV and eat dinner together, intentionally schedule time together to talk or have a family meeting, and talk to your children at bedtime, perhaps before reading a book together.
Communicate clearly. Talk with your family members, speaking clearly. Not in how it sounds, but in what you say. Be direct, don’t beat around the bush, and say exactly what you mean in a kind and respectful way.
Listen, actively. This means focusing on what someone else is saying, without thinking about what you are going to say next, and doing your best to understand what they are trying to get across to you, even if you don’t agree with it. Be willing to ask questions if you don’t understand their point, and tell them when you understand what they are saying. That doesn’t indicate agreement, but it tells them that what they’ve said matters to you. It shows you respect them as a person, and their right to have an opinion that is different from yours.
Be open and honest. Yes, this can make you feel vulnerable, but it also encourages building trust in your relationship. Make sure that this can be done in a safe way, without fear of others making fun or telling people outside the family what was said.
Make the other person your focus. Take into account their age and don’t make assumptions. Listen carefully to what they are saying and consider asking, “Do you mean (this)?” Also pay attention to facial and body language because sometimes it will say the opposite of the words they use.
Be positive. Using criticism, showing contempt for someone, or being defensive are forms of negative communication. While staying away from negative behavior can be hard if it’s been the norm, switching it to using compliments and encouragement can go a long way toward your goals.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, or how hard you try at home, improving communication with your family may seem impossible. It’s not unusual to need professional help, someone that is seen as neutral and is best able to facilitate your efforts to improve communication.
Counselors are trained to interact in a non-threatening way, to engage family members positively, and to provide a safe place to open up.
Contact us at Edgewood Clinical Services to make an appointment and let us help you get started down a positive path and open communication with your family.