“You never listen to me” is a complaint heard as often from children as parents. Good communication helps children and parents to develop confidence, feelings of self-worth, and good relationships with others. During any conflict in relationships, especially in divorce or separation, parents must listen and communicate effectively with their children. Try these tips:
* Teach children to listen…gently touch a child before you talk…say their name.
* Speak in a quiet voice…whisper sometimes so children will have to listen…they like this.
* Look a child in the eyes so you can tell when they understand…bend or sit down … become the child’s size.
* Practice listening and talking…talk with your family about what you see on TV, hear on the radio, or see at the park or store. (Talk with your children about school and their friends.)
* Respect children and use a courteous tone of voice. If we talk to our children as we would our friends, our youngsters may be more likely to seek us out as confidants.
* Catch children and teens being good. Praise them for cooperating with you or their siblings, or for doing those little things that are so easy to take for granted.
* Use door openers that invite children to say more about an incident or their feelings. “I see,” “Oh,” “Tell me more,” “No kidding,” “Really,” “Hmmmm,” “Say that again, I want to be sure I understand you”, “So are you telling me that …”
* Praise builds a child’s confidence and reinforces communication. Unkind words tear children down and teach them that they just aren’t good enough.
* Children are never too old to be told they are loved. Saying “I love you” is important. Writing it in a note provides the child with a reminder that he/she can hold on to.
* Give your undivided attention when your children want to talk to you. Don’t read, watch TV, fall asleep or make yourself busy with other tasks.