Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Parent/Child Communication

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The Influences of Parent and Child Communication

It is not always easy to get our point across to a child. It seems that children do not understand, or just don’t listen. We tell them something, and five minutes later, we have to repeat it again. Likewise, it is not unusual for our children to get frustrated because they feel that we don’t understand what they are trying to tell us. Sometimes children lack the words or skills needed to express themselves effectively. As well, when they are older sometimes they lack the maturity needed to reason or respect the generational differences and therefore, their point may not be well received.

As parents we understand that communication is the basic means of teaching and guiding and that all behavior is communication. Without effective parent/child communication, children can not learn. It takes more than a little effort and patient. It takes skill. There are many different reasons for communicating and they may require different strategies or styles, depending on the particular goal at the time. The influences of that communication process could vary from birth to bond. Three of the most apparent are 1) the relationship building process ) the absent parent and ) Adolescence or Puberty.

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As we begin building the relationship, children learn how to communicate by watching their parents. While our children are very young, parents should begin setting the stage for open, effective communication. If parents communicate openly and effectively, chances are that their children will, too. Children then begin to feel that they are heard and understood, which will boost their self esteem. On the other hand, ineffective communication between parent and child can lead them to believe that they are unimportant, unheard or misunderstood. This may cause them to view their parents as unhelpful or untrustworthy. When children feel secure in their position in the family, they are more likely to be cooperative. Our perception of others directly influences how we communicate with them.

Before parents and their children can communicate, both must feel comfortable enough to do so. While their children are very young, parents should begin setting the stage for open, effective communication. Parents can do this by making themselves available to their children when they have questions or just want to talk. Furthermore, parents who provide their children with plenty of love, understanding and acceptance are helping to create a climate for open communication. Children who feel loved and accepted by their parents are more likely to open up and share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with them. Parents can do this in both verbal and nonverbal ways. Verbally parents can let their children know they accept them through what they say. Parents should try to send positive messages to their children. Parents should be careful of what they say and how they say it. Everything parents say to their children sends a message about how they feel about them. Nonverbally, parents can show their children they accept them through gestures, facial expressions, and other nonverbal behaviors. Parents should try to eliminate behaviors such as yelling and just ignoring the child. When parents communicate with their children, it is important for them to come down to their child’s level by using age-appropriate language that they can easily understand. And they should know what their children are able to understand. They should also make and maintain eye contact when the child is talking to them or when they are talking to the child.

When children express a desire to talk, parents should give them their undivided attention. They should put aside what they were doing and face the child. If parents, for example, continue to read the paper or to watch television while the child is trying to communicate with them, children may get the message that their parents arent interested in what they have to say, or that what they have to say is not important. If children express a desire to talk at a time that the parent is unable to, that should be communicated and a time to talk should be scheduled. Both parties feel a need to be heard but should try to keep the interruptions to a minimum while the other is speaking. Interruptions often break the speakers train of thought, and this can be very frustrating and create a feeling of not wanting to talk with one another, even when really necessary.

How we communicate during conflict is a compelling influence. All families will have conflicts at one time or another. While such conflicts can be upsetting, they need not be too disruptive. There are many different things that parents can do to smoothly get through conflicts and to keep the lines of communication open at the same time. The younger children are, the more difficult it is for them to sit through long speeches. Therefore, when faced with the need to reprimand, keep it brief. It is also crucial that we keep our emotions in check. We are teaching them by example and do not want to build resentment. Unfortunately, many parents arent aware of just how often they use negative forms of communication with their children. Planting seeds of mistrust and low self-esteem in our children of course influences how they communicate with us and others. Nagging and lecturing should be avoided. Nagging is repeating something that has already been said. Lecturing is giving more information than is needed without stopping to listen to other opinions or ideas. I often question, is it to make the child feel worse or the parent feel better. Criticism should also be avoided at all cost. Children often see it as direct attacks, and the result can be lowered self-esteem. Dwelling on the past, attempting to control through guilt, using sarcasm, using threats, lying, denying childrens feelings along with all of the above mentioned elements in building the relationship strongly influence parent/child communication.

It is apparent that divorce and single-parent families have become a way of life in our society. As often but unfortunate as it is, many parents do not live in the same house as their children, which brings another element to the equation. Children usually feel a lot of pain and inner conflict during and after divorce or due to the absence of a parent. Kids may feel responsible for the break-up of the relationship - even more so when they see that so much of the fighting is about them (child custody, visitation, child support). Children would love nothing better than to be loyal to both parents. Unfortunately, in many adversarial separations, they feel a lot of pressure to side with one parent or another. Parents and children are deeply affected by divorce and the struggles that surround it. Depending on the nature of the separation, the child can be forced to see parents through the eyes of the parents. If the child is fed negative information regarding the parent who does not reside with them, he or she will often communicate with them accordingly. If the absent parent is always absent it builds bitterness or anger in the child and when there is communication, it is strongly influenced by the feeling of neglect or abandonment.

Sometimes the divorced or single parent and the child are subject to changes, such as a move to another community, a different school and a reduced income. Their desire or ability to adjust to those changes will be reflected as well. When a child is subjected to open parental conflict, name calling and other forms of disrespect, they will often began to demonstrate the same. It appears to them that this is acceptable and appropriate behavior. Visitation poses yet another issue, discipline. Children are sometimes used as pawns and if disciplined when visiting with the absent parent, this can become an excuse for conflict. When the child learns that any disciplinary action is unacceptable to the “opposing” parent, they often began to disregard the rules given by the absent parent. There are also many instances where the absent parent’s feeling of guilt prohibits disciplinary action, creating a sense of “the grass being greener on the other side” in the mind of a child. This can affect the relationship with the parent who the child resides with, who has to be the disciplinarian.

Unfortunately, more often than not, divorced and single parents turn to their children for mental and emotional support. This almost always has a negative impact on children and adolescents because they are rarely capable of handling such a stress without harmful effects.

Growing up can be a difficult and challenging time for our youth. The transition from adolescence to adulthood can pose challenges that test the youth’s search for his or her own identity and sense of community. Temptations from the environment (school, pears, television, radio, etc.) are particularly strong during this stage of development. Their desire to fit in with their peers can quickly become a strong influence in their communication with their parents. Though they may not want to oppose the values taught at home they fear rejection. So, the internal battle begins because the two most often do not coincide. This stage will often challenge the relationship building process at its root and is usually a difficult time for both. Parents who are actively involved in the child’s life will most often notice changes in attitude and emotional and verbal expression. Obviously, it “can” be a time of conflict and constant confrontation. It’s that time when parents are not that smart after all, old fashion, unreasonable and annoying just to name a few. Therefore, our youth communicate with the parent accordingly.

Communication between parent and child has always been vital. But, in today’s time parents must be vigilant in maintaining open and honest communication, considering there is so much more to discuss. Understanding that communication and parenting are both a process, we understand that the influences of the communication process are many. It is often determined by where we are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and even sometimes financially. Building the relationship is the foundation and absolute most crucial. Therefore, the initial responsibility lies solely in the hands of the parents, considering they will give the guidance, verbally and nonverbally. That foundation will be challenged by the parent and child’s developmental stages as well as life’s variables. As parents, we must teach our children by example to meet and overcome these obstacles in an attempt to keep the parent/child communication in progress and the bond in tact, which sometimes can be a tedious but valuable task.

Work cited

1) Elgin, Suzzette Hadd

The Gentle Art of Communicating with Kids

John Wiley & Son, Inc


) Abrantes, Patricia

The Power of Parent-Child Communication

Hertiage Magazine

Fall 15

) WWW.edpsych.com

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