Frequent Questions and Concerns about Family Communication

What, exactly, is positive family communication?

Having successful family communication can mean many things, but at its core, it means that your family can—and does—talk respectfully about trivial, everyday issues as well as bigger ones. If you want to improve your family’s communication, try to listen actively, offer encouragement, and focus on the things that are going right—not just the things that are going wrong. When you only talk with your children to scold them or to ask why their grades aren’t as high as they were last semester, it sends the message that you are only paying attention to negative issues. By also focusing on the good things that your children do, you can have warm conversations that build a stronger relationship between you.

How can I have positive conversations about topics like premature sexual activity, drugs, or alcohol use?

It can be difficult to stay positive when talking about tough topics, but if you are making a point of being positive during your day-to-day conversations, you’ll already be a step ahead. Although your child’s curiosity or possible experimentation may terrify you, it is important to stay calm and respectful as you discuss sensitive topics. Let your child know that it is safe to ask you questions. Ask about your child’s opinion on these matters, and explain your own views and beliefs. Share relevant stories from your youth so that your child knows you’ve been through the same situations. Be clear about your expectations, focusing on your child’s ability to make safe, healthy choices.

Should I try to create opportunities for positive communication with my children, or let it happen on its own?

Fortunately, positive family communication isn’t something you have to leave to chance. While you can’t just create opportunities for conversation out of thin air, you can be sure to take advantage of the opportunities you do have. It can be as simple as taking time out from doing the dishes to talk about something that your child is thinking about out, or telling your kids about something exciting that happened to you at work today.

What if I don’t know the answer to my child’s questions?

If you’re not sure how to answer a question, be honest. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the best answer. You don’t have to pretend to know everything. If a question that you don’t know how to answer comes up in conversation, use resources available to you, such as the internet, a local library, and subject experts (like doctors or teachers) to find the answers. Explore different options with your child and continue the conversation.