5 steps to improve communication in your family
Last week on Kaya Central, the team and listeners touched on family politics and we asked: “Are you the “go-to” person for family politics resolution?” Based on the listener interaction the common underlying denominator with regards to family conflict were barriers in communication.
Family dynamics is by definition the interaction between family members and the varying relationships that can exist within a family structure. Because each family system is so unique, the communication patterns that exist within each household is equally unique and this is often where the miscommunication occurs.
Effective communication is the basic building block in every relationship, after all this is how we convey our thoughts, feelings and ultimately connect with one another. It also sets the tone for children who learn by example and for every situation that there is a lack of communication with little to no contact with family members, there is a little person who will have been influenced by these family dynamics at play.
The cycle of bad communication is reversible, here are 5 simple steps to improve communication in your family.
1) STRICTLY NO TECHNOLOGY OR TV DURING MEALS
Keeping meal-times about re-connecting with your spouse and children is one way of strengthening family bonds and catching up on the day ahead or the day had. Meals are always in the dining area and make it a point to have each family member seated together for a wholesome bonding session. There will be the odd occasion when this won’t be possible, life gets in the way and mom or dad is either stuck in a meeting or traffic and this is understandable, but the aim is to effectively try to make this a standard part of your day.
2) ACTIVE LISTENING
Children are not the best listeners but neither are adults at times and we need to constantly remind ourselves that communication is a two-way street in order for it to work, you have to listen to, understand and reciprocate when your loved one is communicating and respect them when they voice something, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you. They trust you enough to share their fears, what they’re frustrated or angry about and it takes practice to listen intently to the message being relayed to you. Pay attention to body language, especially with children as this is the key to unlocking what they are trying to communicate.
3) FAMILY DAY
Dedicate Sundays to family day. With nothing to do except whip up a batch of wholewheat, oat pancakes and a sunny-side up breakfast and sit down to a lengthy family breakfast and enjoy a day of family fun, it could also act as an effective de-stressing method for working parents. Whether it’s family picnics in the park, hunting for space-rockets in your garden, a family braai or whatever the day calls for really, the point is to unplug from all things tech and completely devote a day – just 24 hours to each other. You have no idea how valuable this is until you’ve tried it.
The adage “Mommy’s boy” & “Daddy’s girl” is in no way a cliche’ and it is important to bridge this relationship but to also allow your partner or co-parent a chance to build a relationship with your children as well and give them a chance to bond. The cycle of bad communication or barriers in your current relationships with your children can be broken but you have to see it as a problem, acknowledge that something needs to change and then make active efforts to do just that!
5) CHILDREN LEARN FROM EXAMPLE
Try as you may to teach your children what is right from wrong and it will fall on deaf ears if YOUR behaviour is contradictory. Children learn through positive reinforcement and by example so if you want to actively improve communication within your family, show them through your interaction with your significant other how you want them to communicate. Tone, body language, verbal language, facial expressions these are picked up by watching us whether we mean it or not! I cannot re-iterate how important it is to watch what you say, and be mindful of what you watch as this is another key factor in how children learn today. So if you don’t want your child picking up dirty words or saying inappropriate things, it needs to start with you!
“The biggest problem with communication is we do not listen to understand…we listen to reply!”