Tips for Creating Open, Positive Communication in Your Family

By: Gene Roehlkepartain, Guest Blogger

It might seem obvious to say that it’s important to maintain open, warm, and honest communication in your family, yet it also can be really hard.

Have your attempts to get your teen to talk ever resulted in one word answers (or grunts)? Have you ever been tired or distracted during a time your child might be ready to talk? Or you have you ever felt unable to respond to the difficult questions or issues that come up in conversations with your kids?

We've all been there.

By working together to improve communication, you can be more effective in guiding your child through the teen years and into adulthood. You’ll get to know your child better and enjoy your time together. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Try some of these conversation starters:

  • What is something really good that happened to you today? What’s something that was a low for you?
  • What are some of the best conversations you remember having together? What made them good for you?
  • When can you tell that I’m open to talking with you?
  • When are good times for us to talk? At meals? In the evening? On the weekend? Or are there other times?
  • Talking Tips:
  • Talk about the everyday stuff every day. Don’t wait for “important” conversations to have any conversations. Find times to talk with your teen every day.
  • Create times for talking. Expect everyone to be home for meals. Turn off the music while you’re driving around. Play a board game instead of watching television.
  • Don’t freak out. Many teens say they are uncomfortable bringing up issues with their parents because it will make them “freak out.” So while you may be freaking out on the inside if a topic is scary or upsetting, try to keep calm. Listen and ask questions. Give yourself time to regain your composure, but don’t make it an excuse to avoid talking.
  • Listen for more than the words. What teens are “saying” might not come out in words. It might show through body language, tone, or other actions.
  • Think through the tough conversations. Sometimes you need to have a difficult conversation. Think it through in advance. What questions do you need to ask? What can you do to make it go well?
  • Do something else too. Some people don’t like “just talking.” They do better when they’re shooting hoops, putting together a puzzle, hiking in the mountains, or doing a service project together while they talk. Determine if your teen is the type who enjoys talking while engaging in an activity; if so, then engage them in an activity and begin talking.
  • Be patient. Sometimes you and your teen will say things you regret. Other times you’ll miss opportunities for a great conversation. Remember that you can start a new conversation—even a simple one—to put you back on track.
  • Eugene C. Roehlkepartain is Vice President of Research and Development at Search Institute, and creator of the 9 Parenting Strategies. Roehlkepartain is widely recognized as an expert in child, youth, and family development in community contexts. Particular areas of interest include family strengths, community supports for families and youth, spiritual development, service-learning, youth philanthropy, and linking youth development with financial literacy. Join Gene for a free webinar about the 9 Parenting Strategies presented by ParentFurther on Wednesday, January 30 at 12PM, CST. Learn more >>

    - Keep a firm tone and speak seriously – Get my point across without being rude


    Great stuff thanks.I’ve been in and out of the home , it’s not easy for me to talk to my children .Hi my name is Lucio garcia 50 years old.I love my baby’s this house was out of control at first,now it seems it’s getting their(in control).I give my children alot of advice because of what I’ve been through,in and out of jails and prisons drug programs and such. I tell my children I don’t want them to go through what I went through , I want them to learn from my mistakes.but since I haven’t been around ,I’ve got to earn their respect not that they disrespect me,but I tell them something not to do but they do it anyway.I’m very thanks for your literature.Lucio.

    i think communication should start by childhood not
    only in teenage

    Communication is the lifeblood in any Family. Cut out this circuit and relations are finished. For any healthy relationship, its the most important factor to be maintained.


    Gene, these are excellent suggestions. I love the “Do something else” idea. I used to take walks with my teenage son. There was something about getting out of the house that seemed to help him open up and share, IF I could remember to be quiet!

    When parents establish open communication and bonding with their young children, the stage is set for continuing communication into the teen years. I saw a need for a tool to help children express their emotions, learn a vocabulary of feeling words, and encourage parents to LISTEN and REFLECT what they hear without judgement. For sample pages and more information, click on:

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