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Clear Communication: A Valuable Tool in the Parent Toolbox

Last week, my son rushed home excited after a half day of school. He had plans for the rest of his day.


First, hang out at a friend’s house and then have a sleepover.


He arrived in a huge flurry and words were just tumbling out of his mouth.


I struggled to keep up. This is not uncommon with most kids but it’s even more common and challenging for kids with ADHD like my son.


There was so much information he wanted to communicate and here was his mom… just not getting it!


As his frustration with me grew, my calm became calmer.


Yes, I got calmer.


This is a technique I have developed for myself over the years as a result of these types of situations. I used to be right there in it with him; frustrated trying to make sense of it all, getting more worked up and having him go right along with me.


Now, the calmer I get,...


the more I calmly ask him to slow down,...


the more I calmly ask him to take his time,...


the more I calmly ask him to gather his thoughts, the more I can actually avoid a blow up or misunderstanding.


It's a process, but it works, and we can finally have a conversation, hear each other, and move forward.


I never thought much about communication when I became a parent because I thought I knew how to do it well. But therein lay the problem.


I knew how to communicate with adults, well most adults, and was thrown for a loop when my direct, well-thought-out statements were met with blank stares or tantrums from my child.


Back to the drawing board.


It was time to adapt my style, and over the years, staying calm along with clear, direct, effective, and frequent communication has been one of the most valuable tools in my parenting toolbox.


At some point, we have all made the mistake of thinking we are being crystal clear. That people know what we are talking about, and that they are the issue when our messages are not received or acted upon properly.


When you take a step back, everyone has a role to play in communication from doing it clearly to receiving it clearly (listening).  Doing either improperly will show where the deficits are.


Communication becomes an issue when we don’t pay attention or take the time to make the proper adjustments.


Not communicating with a person in a way that doesn’t work for them includes…


  • Yelling (like that was ever going to work),

  • Being cryptic (no mind readers here),

  • Making assumptions (no fortune tellers here either), or

  • Not communicating at all (no one hears you when you don’t speak)!


These are sure-fire ways of making communication with your family members a daily struggle.


And communication with your partner is different from communication with your kids as well. The next section will address how to improve both.


Communication with Your Kids


When communicating with our kids, there are a few things to take into consideration to make your efforts more effective: the point of the communication, the timing of the communication, the age of the child, the ability of the child, and the disposition of the child.


Point of Communication – Why are you communicating? Is it general information? Important information? A request? There are times when you can be casual and there are times when you must have a more formal approach.  For example, general information can be delivered casually, and specific requests should be made more formally. Adapt your approach for the need. The following tips will help in determining when to use each.


Timing of the Communication – Is it the right time to communicate? Is the child on the way out the door, doing homework, busy at play. If you have something important to say, choose the proper timing. Making a request while your child is deep in play is bound to be ignored.


Communicate at times where they are most likely to hear your message and can repeat it back to you for understanding. Formal communication can be used here when sending them off to school or to a friend's house. Give reminders while looking directly at your child before they leave you. Casual communication can be used when making a request to bring in the garbage cans or take out plates for the dinner table. You can switch to formal if needed for these types of things.


Age and Ability of the Child – Little ones are still putting it all together. I know I made the mistake of often over communicating with my son and then not knowing why things didn’t turn out well. Adjust the amount and complexity of the information you communicate with your child based on their ability to receive it and synthesize it. Some children adapt to language more easily than others and some need a bit more time. Grow your communication with them in time and with age.


Disposition of the Child – Got something to say? Is your child tired, hungry, over excited (like mine), not the time to try for clear communication. Address the physical needs of the child and move forward when their sense of balance has been restored. Be aware of your balance as well, staying calm when your child is not will also be very effective in getting to a place where you can deliver your message. The goal is to speak and be heard.


Clear, adapted communication helps children understand better what is required of them. It also helps parents manage situations better.


By adjusting our approach and style of communication with our kids, along with staying aware of their needs, our intents and expectations can be delivered without confusion. This will help to avoid what we could have perceived as bad behavior, when it was only our poor communication that caused the issue.


And now, for your other half…


Communication with Your Partner


Parents are busy so communication between spouses and partners is also very important in staying on the same page for parenting responsibilities, supporting your relationship, and generally getting things done.


Keeping all the balls in the air from appointments to work, to home, and school obligations to can be a delicate balancing act. Neither of you can work in a vacuum and no one is running the show alone. Collaborative communication supports a calm, organized, home life that benefits everyone.


Carve out time to specifically share with one another. Maybe call it the "daily download" but make sure you do it.


Use a shared calendar so you both know where everyone should be at any given time.


A dry erase board in a common area often helps with organizational and provides a visual reminder for you both.


When it comes to deeper connection with your spouse, no assumptions should be made either. As you grow together, life will change, and your communication styles may change as well.


Knowing each other’s styles and preferences will help keep things running smoothly.

Ask each other questions, admit when you don’t understand, or need more information.


And don't have these deep conversations just before going to bed or in bed. Talk about a mood killer (I'm guilty of it). If you've got something crucial to discuss, a neutral is best.


Most of all, don't avoid communication. Things left unsaid can lead to bigger frustrations. If you find you need support in communicating, think about doing a joint counseling session. Often, an unbiased third-party can see things you’ve been too close to the situation to ever identify.


If you're willing to something different, check out the book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts,” by Gary Chapman. The book outlines five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love. By connecting on this level, you may also be able to improve communication and avoid misunderstandings and hurts. There’s even an online quiz you can take.


In the end, clear communication, just like any successful organization, needs to start at the top. That means the parents. Commit to being better communicators with each other and then extend the same to your children.


The Benefits of Clear Communication


Clear communication avoids wasted time, errors and misunderstandings, helps in cultivating calm in the home, and supports better connection for all family members.


Finally, delivery is important as well. Be clear, be direct, and adjust for the occasion if needed. I've learned over the years that less is actually more! Too many words, too much direction, or multiple requests at one time are quickly drowned out.


Yes, sometimes just pointing is great communication!


How’s communication in your home, with your children, and partner?


If it could use a little work, don’t be afraid to seek support to make it better.


If you need to master the art of calm, work on active listing, or learn how adjust your style or approach, booking a call with Committed Change Health & Wellness can help you discover how you can communicate more effectively to support better outcomes for you and your family.


I'll be communicating with you again next week.


Until then,…


Take care and be well,

Courtney

 


Family on the couch talking together.
Clear, effective communication can add tremendous value to your parenting experience.

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