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​​​Parenting Principles Issue12345

Developing Good Communication with Your Children

Open communication with your children is one of the keys to successful parenting. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done, ​especially when children get older and enter their teen years. You can start fostering good communication with your children early on by providing them with a nurturing environment and teaching them they can always trust you and talk to you about anything.

You can find the right balance and the essentials for becoming a nurturing parent by using the SCALE:

  • Support — Lift your children up when they stumble, and cheer them on when they succeed. 
  • Caring — Show daily acts of affection, from giving hugs to providing nutritious meals.
  • Acceptance — Offer unconditional love – always.
  • Love — Display physical and emotional attachment through positive words and actions. 
  • Encouragement — Provide your children with hope, courage and confidence.

By following the SCALE approach, you can develop a trusting relationship with your child where he/she feels there is no barrier to open and honest communication.

Of course, every child is unique, and providing even the most nurturing environment can’t guarantee that a child won’t sometimes be reluctant to open up. One way to promote better communication is to designate one or more nights a week as Family Meal Night. (Ideally, the meal should be dinner, but if another meal fits family members’ schedules better, that’s okay.) Sitting down at the table to eat together as a family sets aside an hour or so when children and parents can talk freely about what happened during their day and upcoming events. Doing this regularly helps make family discussions natural, fun and informative.

Even in this setting, parents can become frustrated when they ask their son how his day was and he replies, “Fine,” or they ask their daughter, “What did you do at school today?” and she replies, “Nothing.” If your child is a master of the one-word response, try these conversation starters:

  • What did you have for lunch?
  • Who did you play with at recess?
  • What did you talk about in science class?
  • What is one thing you learned today?
  • What made you laugh today?

The hope is that once you get more than a single word out of your child, he/she will be more likely to form a full sentence… and then maybe even string several sentences together! It doesn’t always work, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

We also recommend making family dinner time a technology-free zone (for kids and parents). Everyone is much more likely to talk with each other if they aren’t glued to their personal screens or watching TV.

Take a minute to look over our Dinner Table Pledge and commit your family to participate.

Teaching Activity

At the Table

Once you have established Family Meal Night, choose one of your children (or ask for volunteers) to help plan, ​shop for and prepare a meal. This is a great way to teach your children valuable skills they will need later in life, and it provides ideal opportunities for one-on-one conversations. While a child may be reluctant to speak about a troubling or embarrassing situation in front of the entire family, he/she may be more likely to open up during a shopping trip with just Mom or Dad.

Parenting Strategy

Modeling Behaviors

Communication isn’t always verbal. Your children also are constantly watching and learning from your behaviors. Modeling the behaviors you want your children to exhibit is also an important form of parental communication. Here are two ways to do this:

  1. Model positive behaviors you would want your child to use in risky or potentially threatening situations.
  2. Identify situations specific to your child’s age, and model behaviors you would want him/her to use in those ​situations.

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