Taking Time to Talk
One of the most significant barriers to family communication is time. It takes time to talk with your family members, and it seems like everyone has less of it to spare these days. Parents are working more, teenagers seem to be increasingly busy, and it gets more and more difficult to find the energy that it takes to have a good conversation. Setting some time aside to talk is one of the most important things you can do to start building positive communication practices.
- Expect all family members to share a meal together each day (or at least a few times each week).
- Many children don’t like “just talking,” so be open to conversations while playing basketball, taking a hike through the woods, working on a service project, or driving in the car. Don’t always insist on eye contact if it seems to make your child uncomfortable.
- Remember that everyone is comfortable with different situations; some kids may prefer talking in public places like restaurants, fitness centers, or parks, while others prefer the privacy of home.
- Eliminate distractions during family times; turn the radio off when you’re driving, or play a board game instead of watching TV.
- Designate a regular family time—have a weekly family night, a monthly family outing, or a daily check-in before bed. Do whatever works best for your family.
- Try starting conversations in new ways—instead of always asking how school was, greet your child with a reflection about your own day, such as “Hey, it’s good to see you—something exciting happened at work today that I’ve been wanting to tell you about,” or “Tell me something exciting about your day.”
- Unless what you’re doing is very important, be willing to stop and listen to your child when he or she has something to say. When you cannot stop to listen, explain the reason and make a plan to reconnect later. For example, you could say, “I want to hear more about this, but I’m running late for work. Will you tell me more about it during dinner tonight?”
Between work, school, sports, and social activities, families don’t always have a lot of time to talk. Start being intentional about talking with all of your family members as often as possible, and see what it does for your family! It may be difficult at first, but you’ll find that with practice, taking time to talk becomes part of your everyday routine.